Security

South Korea mandates spyware installation on teenagers' smartphones

In North Korea they just add an extra can in the middle of the string

A law requiring the mass installation of spyware on teenagers' smartphones suggests that the frightening level of population control exercised by its neighbours in "Best Korea" has rubbed off on the Republic's administrators in Seoul.

The Republic of South Korea's Communications Commission, a media regulator modeled after the United States' FCC, now requires telecom companies and parents to ensure a monitoring app is installed whenever anyone under the age of 19 receives a new smartphone.

The measure will only slowly come into force over the next few years as it doesn't require old smartphones be updated, although AP reports that most schools in South Korea sent out letters to parents encouraging them to install the software anyway.

One particular monitoring app called Smart Sheriff was funded and developed by the South Korean government with the declared intent of blocking children's access to pornography.

The app, however, effectively allows parents "to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit.

Some send a child's location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as 'suicide', 'pregnancy' and 'bully' or receives messages with those words", reports AP.

The system is notably only applicable to Android phones, and not to those produced by Apple, but has still received a lot of criticism for possibly legalising the broad collection of teenager's personal, sensitive data – and without having conducted any public consultations.

"It is the same as installing a surveillance camera in teenagers' smartphones," Kim Kha Yeun told AP. Kim is a general counsel at Open Net Korea, a non-profit organization that is challenging the regulator's ordinance to South Korea's Constitutional Court. ®

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