Monday, September 21, 2015

Is the Lack of Security Worth It? - Child-Monitoring Apps in South Korea

Many concerns about new technology, including Cloud storage systems, GPS tracking, credit card purchases, and the like, have to do with the security implications. The security of one’s private information is at stake if the technology cannot protect the user from theft. In some cases, security has been almost guaranteed, including the new chip system on some credit cards, which gives a unique number to each purchase, almost eliminating credit card theft. On the other hand, as outlined in the article, “In South Korea, a child-monitoring app is raising security concerns. Why?”, by, there are instances where privacy has not been guaranteed, as is the case with the various required child-monitoring apps in South Korea, including the app Smart Sheriff.
Smart Sheriff and other apps are available where parents can limit the child to what websites he or she visits, track which websites the child went onto, track the child to see where he or she is at any time, and even get alerts when a message to or from the child includes key phrases such as “bully.” The South Korean government is now requiring that these child-monitoring apps be pre-installed onto the new phones of all users 18 and under.
There are a couple problems with these required apps. The major one is that there is a lack of information security. Smart Sheriff in particular was never properly encoded, which means, according to the article, that a third party would be able to access this information. The company cannot guarantee the safety of the parent’s or child’s phone numbers, emails, text messages, or web browsing history. Secondly, the article describes that the information travels from the child’s phone, to the app developer, then to the mobile phone company, before reaching the parent. This elongated transfer of information allows for multiple areas where the information can potentially be hacked into, considering the lack of security in the first place. Another prominent problem is that these apps could potentially infringe on people’s privacy rights. Open Net Korea, an internet policy activist group, stated, “The Decree is unconstitutional as it infringes on children’s privacy and parental rights, increases the risk of data breach, and overburdens both the business and the parents.”
One side of the argument states that these apps are useful parenting tools in order to make sure their children are safe from bullies and/or stay out of trouble. These parents see these apps as a security blanket, so that they can know their kids are safe. However, these apps are potentially putting these families at more risk than the security that the app could potentially provide. There is a point where children need to be by themselves, learning for themselves, and not being one hundred percent hovered over by their parent or guardian. Along with that, it is definitely not worth the price of one’s private information in order to parent one’s children. This is an instance where technology has gone a little too far.

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