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Gov't to remove phone numbers from visitor registrations to protect personal info

All News 14:59 October 26, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- The government is looking to exclude mobile phone numbers from handwritten visitor registrations, introduced to track coronavirus cases among visitors to multiuse facilities, to prevent possible breaches of personal information, its top official in charge of personal information protection said.

Yoon Jong-in, chairman of the Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC), said his agency is pushing to strengthen the management of handwritten visitor entry logs by doing away with mobile phone numbers from such forms.

This file photo, taken on Sept. 11, 2020, shows a visitor entry log at a cafe in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"Aware that there could be blind spots in the management of handwritten visitor entry registers, the government is now in the midst of devising various measures (to better protect personal information)," said Yoon in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his office in Seoul last Friday.

The PIPC established in 2011 became a central administrative agency in charge of affairs related to personal information protection in August, when the National Assembly passed three relevant bills.

Under the anti-COVID-19 social distancing rules, all visitors to multiuse facilities, such as restaurants, cafes and bars, must provide their personal details, including names, time of visit and phone numbers, through either a quick response code-based system or a handwritten form. Frequent leaks of personal information, however, have raised questions about the effectiveness of such paper forms.

Aware of such criticism, the PIPC revised the rules on Sept. 11, allowing multiuse facility visitors to omit their names on the handwritten registrations. As the revision still failed to achieve the goal, the commission has begun to study ways to replace mobile phone numbers with something else.

"Exposure of mobile phone numbers can lead to the leak of personal photos through mobile messaging apps. The public still has fears and anxiety about leaving their phone numbers on visitor entry logs. In this regard, we're now looking for ways to delete the space for mobile phone numbers from visitor registers," Yoon said.

Yoon Jong-in, chairman of the Personal Information Protection Commission, speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his office in Seoul on Oct. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

"It may be technically difficult but necessary to enhance public trust. The success of our quarantine efforts lies in the cooperation from the people, and the basis of the cooperation lies in the belief that all personal information is managed safely," he stressed.

The PIPC chief also said his agency will investigate whether excessive personal information collection via thermal imaging cameras with a facial recognition function violates the personal information protection laws.

"Problems can arise as thermal imaging cameras take facial photos of individuals in addition to measuring their body temperatures. Based on investigations, we'll open discussions with quarantine authorities to devise countermeasures and new guidelines," Yoon said.


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