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Google must disclose personal data sharing: Supreme Court

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An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland in December 2018. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland in December 2018. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Google to disclose whether it shared local user information with third parties, including U.S. intelligence.

The ruling arrived nine years after four Korean activists filed a lawsuit against the global tech company and Google Korea, demanding to know whether their personal information had been shared with third parties.

Under Korean law, online service providers must respond to a customer’s request to disclose any record of personal data being shared with a third party.

An appeals court had earlier partially sided with the plaintiffs but ruled that Google has the right to reject the demand on issues that can be kept private in accordance with the relevant U.S. laws.

The Supreme Court partially overturned the previous rulings and returned the case to the Seoul High Court for a retrial.

The highest court said that even if personal information was provided to foreign intelligence agencies for probable cause, the service provider must notify the users of such acts when that cause terminates.

The plaintiff alleged Google passed on the private information of its users, including those living outside the United States, to an American government intelligence program known as Prism.

Prism trawls the internet for email and chat records of anyone with contacts in the U.S. The program made global headlines after former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden divulged its existence.

“We will review the Supreme Court’s full written decision carefully,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters.

On Wednesday, Google was fined 42.1 billion won ($32 million) by the Fair Trade Commission in an order to correct the practice in which mobile video games were blocked from being released by competitors.

Being aware of potential violations of fair trade rules, Google internally required its employees to delete related emails and discuss the issues offline to avoid leaving traces of such agreements, the antitrust regulator said.

BY JIN MIN-JI, YONHAP [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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