e-Privacy at stake: Real Name Verification Requirement in Korea in 2009

by Laurent François

It’s always good to listen to what’s happening in Korea when you’re European. Why that ? Because Koreans always have 6 months in advance when it comes to new media. And especially this time, privacy really seems at stake:

Korean user generated content (UGC) service providers with a certain traffic volume will have to comply with the Real Name Verification requirement, starting from 2009.

Real Name Verification asks all users to verify their real-world identity before making any user content on the web – blogs, wikis, photos, videos, or even comments. Users won’t be required to use their real names as their IDs, but still they have to verify their particular online ID is mapped onto their real name.

So it’s like this: If you are lonelygirl15, and if you want to upload your videos on Youtube, you can still appear as lonelygirl15 but you gotta tell Youtube that you are actually Jane Doe (or whatever is your real world name) and your actual social security number is 123-45-678. “Hi lonelygirl15, would you mind if we check your real name and social security number before you proceed with the video clip upload?”
Guess what will happen if that mapping info gets hacked (guessing who in the world fake Steve Jobs might be will be the thing of the past); or if someone steals your real name and social security number, and acts online as if he was you – this time, with more (false) credibility.
Korea experienced this year a fantastic citizens’ engagement against the government (beef affair). The movment was organized online, and in the streets, people were not wearing Maoist or extremist signs, but more precisely geek t-shirts and candlelights.
Here’s maybe Korean government main argument to implement this Real Name Verification requirement:

Despite the positive side of young people’s passion on the Internet, we still should be cautious about irrationalism in cyberspace that may threaten online democracy (as I mentioned in my last post). Yesterday, South Korean President Lee warned that “the spread of false and incorrect information through the Internet and spam email is threatening the people’s rational thinking and mutual trust.”

Privacy and freedom of speech jeopardized?

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