A hotshot young app developer, a great idea, and technology that lets you know where your loved ones are. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, as it turns out.
Last week, 25-year-old Mr Kim discovered the perils of being a technological pioneer when he was charged with distributing people’s locational data without their permission. Kim is the creator of the wildly popular 오빠믿지 (Oppa midji or “you trust oppa, right?”) app, which lets users keep track of their boyfriends/girlfriends’ location via their smartphone. If that sounds icky to you, you’re not alone — despite it’s enormous popularity, it was widely dubbed “the Devil App” in Korea.
Though the newer version of Oppa Midji requires both parties to give their express permission, for the first two days of its operation (according to this article), no such safeguard existed. This was apparently sufficient time for thousands of users to unwittingly be offering their locational details to anyone else who had downloaded the app.
Kim, who was one of eight people from four companies charged with similar offences, put it down to a simple mistake.
I saw foreign companies operating location-based services here without a hitch so I just started one up. But even though I wasn’t aware of it, I did wrong and I regret it.
Netizen responses to Kim’s arrest have varied widely. While some were distinctly uneasy with such an intrusive app, and others pointed out how short-sighted it was not to have checked the relevant regulations in advance, many saw the incident as having a potentially chilling effect on developers. “Developing software in Korea is scary,” thundered one. “How can we expect to produce our own Steve Jobs?”
The facts in all this are somewhat murky. If it was a genuine mistake for all of two days, then you could perhaps out it down to simple inexperience. On the other hand, I’ve heard from a couple of Korean friends that not only did the original Oppa Midji not require permission from the person being followed, it continued to transmit his/her location even when the app was switched off — making it a far more serious breach of privacy. If anyone knows the exact turn of events, I’d be very interested to hear them…