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[Opinion] Online ID-Thefts

Posted May. 15, 2003 22:01,   


When office workers report to work in the morning, they first boot their computers and start reading e-mail messages. Actually, they are busy deleting junk e-mails without even opening them up. Spam mails and adult-sites advertising mails outnumber the e-mail messages they should read. Sometimes, they mistakenly erase out the messages they should have read carefully. It is quite a stress to sort out and delete all the junk e-mails piled up overnight.

▷ A report suggests that Internet users across the world bear $10 billion in cost a year caused by the junk e-mails. Then how and where could the junk mail "producers" get the e-mail addresses and obtain the personal information? It is pretty pristine to muster up the e-mail addresses posted on the online bulletin boards. Whenever we use credit cars or subscribe to some Internet service or activate a mobile phone, the companies add our personal taste and purchasing power to their files on us. Then, companies share the files of the cumulated information without our consent, or sell for money, which is obviously a crime under the current law.

▷ In the old days when we did not recognize the importance of personal information, Internet users provided their personal information including the Korean social security number to the Internet providers and companies operating online. So far, an army of the companies went under and another army of companies have sprung up. Then what has happened to our files retained by the extinct companies? No one knows, unfortunately. South Korea boasts of its world best Internet infrastructure. When it comes to privacy protection and ethics of the people who handle it, however, we feel ashamed. Even after hackers hack out all the information on customers, companies do not know of it until the police notify them of such. Some credit card companies even sold customer information to insurance companies to pocket more money.

▷ Personal information deserves the best quality protection. In this information age, the definition of privacy includes not only the right to private conversation, but also the right to protection of his or her privacy. On the other hand, the information produced by means of tax money should be made available to the public. We are the owner of the public information. Even in order to secure transparency and fairness in governance, we must have a free access to the public information. The facts, however, point to the contrary. Personal information is being constantly leaked to companies and government agencies, while the public information is being closed to the general public. Of course, it is not the first time we are watching things moving in reverse direction!

By Editorialist Hwang Ho-tack