Police arrested a 26-year-old student, known only by his last name Kim, earlier this week on charges of posting an abusive message against South Korea President Park Geun-hye with photos of guns and ammunition.
The man was questioned by the police after he wrote “let’s attack Cheong Wa Dae” on his Facebook account. The suspect, who claims to be a college student, said he was only curious about people’s responses.
Open Net, a local activist group, criticized Facebook’s headquarters for providing the Internet Protocol address to the investigators that led to the arrest, adding that the U.S. firm did not protect user privacy.
It claimed that Facebook responded to a search warrant without going through formal procedures with U.S. investigative authorities, casting concern that it may have violated an international agreement on criminal-related cooperation.
The group cited the mutual legal assistance treaty, which refers to an agreement between two countries in enforcing criminal laws. Thus, Open Net said Facebook should have consulted U.S. authorities before replying to the warrant issued from South Korea.
The group’s remarks refer to U.S.-based Apple Inc. that recently turned down the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s request to unlock a suspected terrorist’s iPhone.
Facebook, however, said there are no legal problems for the company to provide the data in response to the warrant.
“(The warrant) was requested through a legal process, and we found it necessary to respond to it. We are transparent (in coping with investigative bodies),” a Seoul-based Facebook spokesman told Yonhap News Agency. “We receive similar requests from around the globe.”
The protection of an individual’s privacy has been a hot topic in South Korea as the country’s most-used mobile messenger, KakaoTalk, was also criticized for responding to warrants.
While its operator Kakao Corp. said it would not accept request to look into its users’ records in October 2014, the company eventually changed its policy last year.
The change in the policy followed as others claimed that its privacy rules may interfere with the prosecution of investigations into serious crimes, as chat records can serve as crucial evidence.’