[Foundation-l] South Korean Government's regulations on real name for Internet

Mike Godwin mgodwin at wikimedia.org
Sun Apr 12 12:35:32 UTC 2009

Geoffrey Plourde writes:

> While I may not be a lawyer, I believe that this system is a paper tiger.
> It is simply impossible for them to enforce it for many reasons.
> 1. It is impossible for us to determine which users are from South Korea
> 2. It would be a privacy violation to deliver names and numbers of non
> Koreans to the Korean government to be vetted for criminal purposes
> 3. There exists no means by which they can enforce this law upon the
> Foundation.

I think this is all basically correct, but would add that the limitations on
the amount of user data we keep now (see our Privacy Policy) mean that even
South Koreans have a lot of (effective) protection from government attempts
to extract "real name" information from Wikimedia databases. (I'll note that
edit histories, however, may have IP numbers that help identify particular
users to anyone who bothers to look -- this is perhaps a good reason for
South Koreans to use logins if they are going to edit.)

> That being said, I urge the Foundation to check system architecture and
> work towards placing all personal information databases in a country with
> real protections, like the United States. This will prevent any future
> problems of this nature.

Again, we don't have much in the way of personal information databases, but
what little we do have is based in the United States.

In general, I want folks in the Community to know:

1) We're watching S. Korea closely to determine whether their new "real
name" policy will affect our projects.

2) We would not change our privacy policy -- which limits the extent to
which it's possible in every case to identify particular users -- as a
result of such developments in S. Korea or anywhere else.

3) South Korea has little or no ability to impose any "real name"
identifying rules on us, not least because of our lack of a significant
organizational or economic presence there.

4) We don't currently anticipate anything precisely parallel to the blocking
issue in the UK some months ago.  There is no sign yet that the S. Korean
government will take steps that would result in changes to S. Koreans'
ability to access our projects. True, what few steps they could take
unilaterally might limit South Koreans' access to our projects in some
indiscriminate way, but even in that extreme case it wouldn't result in our
changing our Privacy Policy.


More information about the foundation-l mailing list