The government of South Korea has ruled that smartphones belonging to people under 19 must contain an app to monitor their internet activity, ostensibly on the grounds that their parents want to be able to see what they’re up to and to block access to ‘undesirable’ sites. Phone manufacturers will somehow make sure that phones won’t work unless the spyware is there. Which sounds rather easy to get around to me, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that there are exactly two reasons for the government to do something like this. Either they want to make parents responsible for what their children do – worrying thing indeed in an oppressive regime – or they have back doors into the spyware.
The government has developed its own monitoring app called Smart Sheriff, but there more than a dozen alternatives on the market.
It seems likely that the only relatively reliable way to block phones that don’t contain spyware is to have an approved list of spyware. Approved, that is, by the South Korean government. It’s hardly unrealistic to assume they have backdoors into these approved ‘alternatives’.
The younger generation is always the one of most concern to oppressive governments. They are the most likely to see injustice and intolerance for what it is. They are the most likely to organise and protest. They’re the most likely to feel like they have the least to lose.
So forgive me if I’m not entirely convinced by the South Korean government’s stated motives.