Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Google Refuses Korean Real-Names Policy But Imposes It On G+ Users

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 9, 2011

Google's insistence that people use their real names on Google Plus goes against its official policy of refusing to comply with South Korea's Real-Name verification law.

The Korean law forces web sites with more than 100,000 visitors per day to force users to use their real names. Google got around it by stopping Korean users of YouTube from posting comments and told them to upload video to a neighboring country's YouTube site.

Google Tests The Limits Of Governments - Bars Korean Users From Uploading Videos And Leaving Comments - SVW

Rachel Whetstone, VP of Global Comms, explained: "Google thinks the freedom of expression is most important value to uphold on the internet. We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to internet users while observing this country's law because the law does not fall in line with Google's principles."

Why then does Google insist that Google Plus users have to use their real names?

Social Informatics points out:

In April 2011, Freedom House, international human rights NGO, published the report about freedom on internet and digital media. In the report, they describe South Korea as “partly free country”.

They states that South Korea’s internet infrastructure is one of the most advanced in the world, and its democratic institutions, however Real-Name verification policy and a recent series of arrests of bloggers have presented challenges to internet freedom.

UN special rapporteur, Frank La Rue, also concerns regarding Real-Name verification that “clearly qualifies as pre-censorship, restricts freedom of internet-based expression rooted in anonymity, inhibits public opinion formation, and contravenes freedom of expression.”


Real names makes it easier for hackers to steal identities reports Korea Joongang Daily:

Cyber leaks expose cracks in Korea’s Net security - INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

These Web portals ask for names, resident registration numbers, birth dates, addresses and phone numbers to join their services, which are accumulated, some of them encrypted, in their servers for at least five years and become attractive “booty” for hackers.

“Instead of mere lists of online accounts, [hackers] could steal the full package of real world identities,” said Nakho Kim, a media researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Due to government policies and industry laziness, many Korean online services tend to collect a lot of personal identity information.”



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