[Statement] Google must implement the duty to protect personal data under South Korean law
– Four human rights and civil groups partly win in a law suit against Google demanding disclosure of information
– Google should disclose history of users’ personal data provided to a third party
1. On 16 Oct. 2015 the 22nd Collegiate Court on civil cases in Seoul Central District Court made a ruling partly in favor of human rights activists and civil society who filed against Google Inc. and Google Korea demanding disclosure of information (whether it provided their data to a third party).
This ruling has significance home and abroad in terms of digital rights as the court ruled that a global company must abide by the South Korean law which stipulate duty to protect users’ personal data even though it’s a global company.
2. Suspicions were raised in July 2013 that Google had comprehensively provided users’ data living in a number of countries to NSA during its cooperation with NSA for collecting information. On 23 July 2014, six staff and activists working for Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, Amnesty International South Korea, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet and Citizens’ Action Network filed a law suit against Google Inc. and Google Korea demanding to disclose information whether it provided their data to a third party including US intelligence agencies and the history of the data it had given to a third party.
3. Under the law 『ACT ON PROMOTION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK UTILIZATION AND INFORMATION PROTECTION, ETC.』, users are legally guaranteed to request disclosure of their information whether a service provider keep users data and the history of how the data has been used. However, the representative of Google has argued that Google Korea doesn’t have servers in South Korea and the South Korean law is not applicable to the headquarters of Google Inc. in the US.
4. On 16 0ctober 2015 the court ordered Google Inc. to provide 4 g-mail users((@gmail.com)) with personal information under the act, including personal data and the history of data which were provided to a third party. The court states, at the ruling, that Google provides services in Korean with separate domain name for Korean users, and operates business obtaining orders for advertisement from Korean companies and individuals, so Google Terms of service which excludes jurisdiction of South Korean court is invalid in accordance with article 27 of ACT ON PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW. In addition, the court states that it’s against the mandatory provisions of the country for Google to deprive users of their rights granted by domestic law to demand disclosure of information including whether their data were provided to a third party, and ruled that Google has a duty to disclose information including personal data at the request of user
5. However, the court granted exceptions of information disclosure in case that Google has a duty of not disclosing information by the laws including 18 U.S.C § 2709(c)(1) and 18 U.S Code § 1861(d). In addition, the court said users with company e-mail address are not covered by the ruling. The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for compensation for damage and all claims for Google Korea.
6. Recently, a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling came into the spotlight as it ruled the Safe Harbor agreement between the European Commission and U.S. authorities did not offer necessary legal guarantees and nullified the safe harbor scheme.
The court put the brakes on the sharing information between global companies in the US and intelligence agencies. South Korean Google users deserve the rights related to personal data under the Korean law.
7. We are going to appeal to a higher court in terms of what dismissed in the ruling. We again call on Google Inc., which has operated in South Korea, to implement its duty to protect personal data and to respect Google users’ right to personal data including right of access to their own personal data.
16 Oct. 2015
Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, Amnesty International South Korea, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet and Citizens’ Action Network
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 Article 27 (Consumer Contract)
(1) In case a contract, which a consumer concludes for a purpose besides his occupational or business activities, falls under any of the following subparagraphs, the protection given by the mandatory provisions of the country, where the habitual residence of the consumer is located, shall not be deprived even if the parties choose the applicable law:
1. In case, prior to the conclusion of the contract, the opposite party of the consumer conducted solicitation of transactions and other occupational or business activities by an advertisement in that country or conducted solicitation of transactions and other occupational or business activities by an advertisement into that country from the areas outside that country and the consumer took all the steps necessary for the conclusion of the contract in that country;
(4) In case of the contract under the provision of paragraph (1), the consumer may an file a lawsuit against the opposite party of the consumer even in the country where the habitual residence of the consumer is located.
(6) The parties of the contract under the provision of paragraph (1) may agree on the international jurisdiction in writing: Provided, That such agreement shall be effective only in any of the following subparagraphs:
1. In case a dispute already occurred; or
2. In case filing a lawsuit with other courts in addition to the competent court under this Article is permitted to the consumer.