Police Raid Hits Google Office In South Korea

Police have raided the South Korean office of Google investigating the search engine’s use of location data

Google continues to experience difficulties in South Korea afters its local office was raided by investigators seeking to establish whether the search engine has been collecting users’ location data through its mobile ad platform.

Seoul’s Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) descended on Google’s office 3 May looking into allegations that Google’s AdMob platform was used to illegally collect private data about users’ geographical locations. Google purchased AdMob for $700 million (£424 million) last May to help developers insert ads within their applications.

A Google Korea spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal police entered the office to investigate how Android devices collect information about users’ location.

Privacy Concerns

The raid on Google’s office comes days after South Korea’s Korea Communications Commission sent a list of inquiries to Apple Korea unit to clarify how it collects location data from iPhone and iPad users, the Journal added.

Google is co-operating with the SMPA’s investigation, a company spokesperson told eWEEK via email 3 May.

“We’re happy to work with the Korean authorities to answer any enquiries they may have, and are committed to operating within Korean law,” the Google spokesperson said.

This was the second raid by the SMPA since last August, when it grabbed hard drives and documents related to Google’s Street View service, which South Korean authorities said violated the country’s telecommunications privacy law.

Ongoing Issue

The new raid follows a swath of negative sentiment swirling around Apple and Google regarding the way they collect and use data driven by users’ whereabouts.

Google said it uses the location of wireless signals from WiFi hotspots and cellular towers to help a smartphone triangulate its position.

The company does this to improve both the relevancy and ad targeting for Google Maps, Google Places, Google Latitude and other location-oriented, mobile social apps. Users access these apps from smartphones and tablets based on Google’s Android operating system.

Google is facing opposition from its South Korean rivals as well.

The country’s NHN and Daum Communications search engines complained two weeks ago to country’s Fair Trade Commission that Google is supposedly blocking local phone carriers and phone makers from adding their search applications to Android-based handsets and tablets.

“Android is an open platform, and carrier and OEM partners are free to decide which applications and services to include on their Android phones,” Google told eWEEK 15 April.