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South Korea considers opt out for child-monitoring smartphone app

Published 20/11/2015

A law requires parents and phone companies to install a filtering app on youngsters' smartphones
A law requires parents and phone companies to install a filtering app on youngsters' smartphones

South Korea is deciding whether to allow parents to opt out of installing a monitoring app on their children's smartphones.

Korea Communications Commission chairman Choi Sungjoon said parliament was considering the issue.

Under a law enacted in April, mobile phone companies and parents are required to install one of about a dozen apps that filter objectionable material when those 18 and younger buy a smartphone.

But critics say the law legalises surveillance of children and jeopardises privacy.

The commission faced heavy criticism when government-sponsored Smart Sheriff, the most popular of the apps, was revealed to have serious security flaws.

Experts at internet watchdog group Citizen Lab and German software auditing firm Cure53 warned in September that Smart Sheriff's weak security left the door wide open to hackers and put the personal information of some 380,000 users at risk.

Smart Sheriff was later pulled from the market and it stopped new downloads from November.

In addition to giving an opt-out option to parents, the proposal by 10 politicians submitted in October said mobile companies must explain to parents the functions of monitoring apps in detail, including the type of personal information collected from children.

Mr Choi, the communications regulator, said the government should continue to play a role in protecting young smartphone users against harmful content.

"I think we have a general understanding that blocking these obscene materials for the kids is good for their personal growth," he said.

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