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Google Offices Raided In South Korea

May 3, 2011

Google’s South Korean offices for its mobile advertising agency, AdMob, were raided early this morning by police. The raid was conducted to gather evidence alleging that Google and its advertising platform illegally collected user data.

Hard drives and other computer data were confiscated from the offices, AFP reprots. A Google spokesman confirmed that the police had visited its Seoul office and told Reuters the company was cooperating with their investigation.

The probe highlights growing worries about the security of personal information gathered online, especially as mobile devices become more popular. The investigation in South Korea follows news reports that US regulators are considering their own broad probe into Google’s activities.

A South Korean police spokesman explained to BBC News, “We suspect AdMob collected personal location information without consent or approval from the Korean Communication Commission.”

Kim Kwang-jo, a computer science professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology explained to Reuters: “Every technology has a flip side. Location-based services benefit customers by helping them find nearby restaurants, gas stations and other places with their smartphones.”

“But it could potentially violate consumer privacy. There are loopholes in location-based services, and companies should get consent from customers to collect location data.”

The United States, Britain, France, Singapore, Switzerland and South Korea have previously expressed worry about the types of data collected by Google’s controversial fleet of “Street View” cars. Seoul police concluded earlier this year that Google collected location information and other data from 600,000 wireless Internet users in South Korea with three Street View cars.

Google tightened its privacy policy in the wake of revelations that Google’s Street View program, which take panoramic pictures of city streets, had collected data from unsecured wireless networks.

Google purchased California-based AdMob, a leading global mobile ad firm, last year for $750 million, in order to tap the growing business of targeting advertising to users on the go.

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