South Korea has adopted the highly repressive North Korean regime as its personal freedom reference point.
As the North blocks sites and web pages with gusto, South Korea is now telling parents they must install government-approved and manufactured spyware on the smartphones of any children under the age of 19.
Yet nobody has seen the inner workings of the app, named “Smart Sheriff”, raising serious questions about just what the app does.
A similar app named “Smart Relief” allows parents to monitor their teen’s smartphone activities and sends alerts triggered by any of the 1,100+ words on its watchlist.
Some terms it monitors (both in text messages and searches) would obviously raise concerns in parents while others seem to do nothing more than give parents a reason to lock their kids up until they’re old enough to move out:
Girl I like, boy I like, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, breakup
In short, the level of spying is extreme.
It gives government agencies access to minors’ communications, and does so to nearly every child in the country; 80% of South Korean schoolchildren own smartphones.
It doesn’t even relate to national security, the usual bogey man cited for such privacy invasion. Communications will likely be delivered to law enforcement and intelligence agencies but also to parents, schools and service providers.
The app effectively indoctrinates children that personal freedom is unimportant and that spying is just a normal part of life. A whole generation will grow up thinking spying is normal and to be expected.
Yet children who haven’t grown up with such spying are experiencing a chilling effect.
Smartphones are now no longer viewed as essential equipment by teenagers, with students saying they will wait until they turn 19 to get a new phone.
“I’d rather not buy a phone,” said Paik Hyunsuk, 17. “It’s violation of students’ privacy and oppressing freedom.”