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04/03/2018 HYU News > General


Facebook Data Breach

How it also influenced Korea


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You might have noticed that when logging onto a social networking service(SNS) app for the first time, it requires you to agree to a lot of personal information collection. Normally, people simply skim through it before pressing the agree button to move onto the next page as quickly as possible. However, especially with the sophisticatedly intertwined information and data network among various apps, that lighthearted consent can lead to vast data exposure, like the recent Facebook data breach scandal, which outraged many around the world.

What happened

In 2014, a Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan launched an app called “This is Your Digital Life” through Facebook. Any Facebook user could easily log onto the app through “social login.” Social login is a form of sign-on using existing information from a social networking service like Facebook or Twitter to sign into a third party website instead of creating a new login account specifically for that website. In other words, it is a simplified login method for apps with linked accounts. This is in a useful way for users as it becomes unnecessary to remember multiple login IDs and passwords for different websites. Those who do not have accounts with compatible SNS are then provided with a more traditional online registration option. Naturally, this method was utilized by users of all kinds of SNS such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Youtube, Instagram, Naver Band, Kakaotalk, and many others. 
Social login and traditional login options
(Photo courtesy of
However, it all came under fire when Facebook recently admitted its data breach of approximately 50 million users, who had their personal information sold to Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British consulting company which used the data to supposedly help get then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump elected. This information had actually been collected by the “This is Your Digital Life” app, which had access to personal data and liked-contents of not only the app's users but also of their friends through the social login service. CA simply made a deal with Kogan’s company, Global Science Research, to share the info from the app.

How the scandal affected Korea

When news broke out that Facebook has also had access to call and text records of a number of Android users, the Korean government decided to investigate not only Facebook's, but also Korea’s leading SNS platforms like Kakaotalk and Naver Band’s personal information protection policies. The investigation’s focus is to make sure the companies have clearly received consent from users to have access to their personal information, and if they have actually collected the aforementioned data. While the investigation is still in progress, Korean SNS companies such as Naver Band and Kakaotalk stated that their scale of collecting personal data is quite limited compared to Facebook's. For example, when we use social login with our Kakaotalk account, Kakaotalk only provides the third party with our Kakao nickname and profile picture. Other activities done within the app are not part of the social login data exchange system.

Luckily, Korea has a more distinct policy when it comes to personal information. According to Korean law, the Telecommunications Act specifically imposes that personal information must be collected and used under the user's consent, and cannot be shared with the third party without further consent of the user, or special legal situations. Those who have gotten access to such data illegally will be sentenced to up to five years in prison or fined up to 50 million Korean won. Due to such strict laws, the social login and personal data usage issue is dealt with more sensitively among both SNS companies and their users.  
“So this was a major breach of trust and I'm really sorry that this happened," said Mark Zuckerber, CEO of Facebook.
(Photo courtesy of

In the current era where the spread and usage of information data is no longer something that can easily be controlled, people must instead be aware of how important it is to keep track of how it may be used. Take Facebook for example. Facebook alone has approximately 2.1 billlion active users who share photos, videos, and other life events on the platform. The option to “like” photos, videos, and posted articles alone can provide the vast media and market with not only information about the current trend, but can also help them predict or form new trends. Because it is so valuable, there must be detailed regulations to protect and somewhat regulate the flow of our personal information. However, we ourselves must also be aware of what we are signing up for in order to prevent data breaches like the recent Facebook scandal.

Park Joo-hyun
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