KakaoTalk is a mobile instant messaging application that offers free texts and calls to its users. Launched in 2010, the application is currently available on a whole host of devices including Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The popular software has over 140 million users and is most prominent in South Korea, where 93% of smartphone owners use KakaoTalk.
However, KakaoTalk has taken a hit recently as some people believe that the South Korean government have been snooping inside personal chat history. The issue dates back to April 2014, where hundreds died when a South Korean Sewol ferry capsized. President Park Guen-hye was, and continues to be, criticised for how she handled the entire incident.
Protests emerged in the capital; victims’ families claim that the authorities mishandled the search process; a prominent artist presented the president as taking a military rule; one Japanese report claimed that the president was meeting with her divorced former aide on the day of the sinking, which she denies.
As rumours continued to spread about her, the president announced in late September that she was going to crack down on those who were circulating them. One of the most popular apps for chatting is KakaoTalk, which became a main target.
It was reported that some users of the app had received warnings to say that their accounts had been searched by investigators. A spokesman for South Korea’s public prosecutors’ office stated that they could only monitor and read messages on the app when given a court-issued warrant. They claimed that they want to protect citizens’ freedom of expression, but that they had to deal with cases of slander in a strict manner.
In a reaction to the news, around 400000 users have now stopped using the app, according to Rankey.com. Many of these users jumped ship to Telegram Messenger, an app developed in Germany which encrypts messages. This encryption is end-to-end, meaning the company couldn’t read any of the messages even if they wanted to or were asked to.
In reaction to the news, KakaoTalk has been updated with a whole host of new security features. The company behind the app, Daum Kako, have announced that chat history would now only be stored for three days, rather than the previous seven. They also said that they are working on full encryption and the ability to enable a feature that immediately deletes messages once they’ve been read.
“Our commitment to the security and reliability chats and user data is steadfast,” said the company in a blog post. For many, however, this news may be too little too late. Besides, when competitors already offer encrypted services, it might not be enough to simply announce that the feature is being worked on.
For many, security is one of the biggest concerns in the modern technology world following the NSA revelations. It’s not yet known whether the impact from the KakaoTalk fallout will last in the long-term, or whether the app’s reign over the throne is still safe despite this setback.
KakaoTalk Reduces Chat History Storage Period to Combat Privacy Concerns
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