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The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, has decided to surrender in its efforts to transfer the personal information of its users in South Korea to other countries and track their location data.
In an announcement in late May, Meta told users in Korea they must agree to the new terms and conditions, by July, in order to continue using their services.
The ultimatum triggered a backlash and an investigation by South Korean authorities, with questions as to why only Korea-based users were targeted by the measures as well as the legality of restricting services to users in this fashion.
The company extended the agreement deadline to August but then decided to drop its demands. Still, the question of data collection by large IT companies and whether they benefit users remains to be debated.
We address some of the key issues today with AN Junseong / Visiting Professor, Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies and Dr. J.R. Reagan, CEO of IdeaXplorer.
Prof. Ahn: When Meta initially made its announcement in May, the U.S. IT firm said it aims to "improve user experience" by collecting personal information for customized services, sharing the data with gov't agencies, transferring the information to branch offices, partner businesses, etc. But these terms seem to have little to do with user experience. What kind of improvements would the company have in mind had it gone through with the data collection requirement? Was there an underlying purpose for amassing the data?
Professor Reagan: Why was it only Korean users who were facing Facebook's ultimatum on personal data usage?
Professor Reagan: What do you think led Meta to retract its policy?
Prof. Ahn: Social media these days seem like a public service but they are very much private businesses. What is the legality of denying services or presenting what many see as coercive conditions to its users?
Professor Reagan: How much control do people have over their personal data and information once they consent to terms such as those presented by Facebook (to its Korean users)?
Professor Ahn: South Korea has some of the most stringent data protection laws in the world. Are global platforms and tech firms, as LLCs in Korea, subject to the same rules and obligations on data privacy and transparency?
To both: Do you think surveillance capitalism is happening?
To both: Can there be a balance between allowing innovative services and ensuring data protection? What is the best way forward?
AN Junseong / Visiting Professor, Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies and Dr. J.R. Reagan, CEO of IdeaXplorer. Thank you for your time.