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Naver not liable for handing over user information to police: court

All Headlines 16:03 March 10, 2016

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The nation's top court on Thursday returned to a lower court a ruling that ordered South Korea's No. 1 portal provider Naver Corp. to compensate a user for submitting his personal information to the police during an investigation.

In March 2010, the plaintiff, identified only by his surname Cha, was investigated on charges of defaming the then-Culture Minister Yu In-chon on a community platform operated by Naver.

Following a police request, Naver provided the personal information of the 35-year-old to the investigators without a warrant. The information included Cha's registration number, address and phone number.

Cha later filed a suit seeking compensation, saying Naver failed to perform its duty to protect his user information when it was not compelled to submit it.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in favor of the defendant and said the portal does not have an obligation to review every single case thoroughly when asked to provide the personal information of a user.

"If we acknowledge the portal's duty to decide on providing user information, it would shift the role of the investigative authorities to them," the court said.

The court also said if portal operators are obliged to review individual cases, there is a possibility of allegations being leaked to the public and more privacy infringements.

The Seoul High Court had ordered Naver to compensate the plaintiff 500,000 won (US$415).

The lower court said the case was not a situation where the personal information needed to be provided urgently and that Naver has an obligation to protect the private information of its user.

Since the appeals court's ruling in October 2012, local portals said they would stop providing the personal information of users to authorities without a warrant. The country's three leading mobile carriers are still providing the information under request.

In 2014, investigative authorities received some 13 million pieces of communication data from portals and mobile carriers, sharply increasing from 9.57 million a year earlier and 7.87 million in 2012, government data showed.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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