Tag Archives: technology

South Korea Samsung Electronics Listening TV

Samsung’s Eavesdropping Smart TVs Raise Concerns

by YOUKYUNG LEE, AP Technology Writer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Watch what you say in your living room. Samsung’s smart TV could be listening. And sharing.

At least that’s what you’d conclude in reading Samsung’s privacy policy for smart TVs. Voice recognition technology in Samsung’s Internet-connected TVs captures and transmits nearby conversations. The policy warns, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

In a blog post Tuesday, Samsung said it is removing that sentence and clarifying the policy “to better explain what actually occurs.”

For the voice command feature to work, the TV listens for predefined commands such as changing the channel or the volume. That speech isn’t stored or transmitted, according to Samsung. But the remote control also has a microphone that can not only respond to those commands but also search for content, such as requests to recommend a good movie. The speech is translated by third-party software into text and sent back to the TV as a command.

Although Samsung initially declined to name the software company, the blog post identifies it as Nuance Communications Inc. The TV also transmits other information including its unique identifier, both to provide the service and to improve the feature.

Samsung said voice recognition on the remote must be activated by pressing a button. It’s similar to how Siri and Google Now voice assistants work on smartphones. If the feature isn’t activated, there’s no threat of eavesdropping, Samsung said. Users will see microphone icon on the screen when it is on. Users can disable the feature, but voice control would then be limited to predefined commands.

The South Korean company said it takes consumer privacy “very seriously.”

“We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”

It is not the first time that smart TVs sparked privacy concerns. In 2013, the owner of a LG Electronics smart TV revealed it was sending information about his viewing habits back to the company without consent and without encrypting data.

LG has also experimented with displaying targeted ads on its smart TVs, which requires collecting and utilizing user data, such as their location, age and gender.


Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this story from New York. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Get our daily newsletter



Samsung Loses Ground to Apple in South Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Samsung has always marketed their smartphones as the “next big thing,” but when Apple went big with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, South Koreans flocked to the fruit.

According to Android Authority, Apple gained significant market share in Japan, China and Korea as Samsung lost ground. Sales for the iPhone reached record highs in October and November in Korea and Japan. Samsung, which has consistently held upwards of 60 percent of the smartphone market at home, saw their market share drop significantly.


As seen above, Apple’s market share in South Korea pretty much doubled from 15 percent to over 30 percent during the latter months of 2014. Globally, Samsung saw its market share decline to 23.8 percent in the third quarter, down from 32.5 percent from the same period in 2013.

Last year was not kind to Samsung’s mobile division, as the company struggled against cheaper handsets, led by the Chinese company Xiaomi, which overtook Samsung’s majority market share in China. On the premium end of the spectrum, the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 didn’t stand up as well against Apple’s larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. That led to the company’s first annual profit decline since 2011.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Samsung, though. Their other divisions of the company, in particular television and memory chips, are going strong, and Samsung isn’t sitting pat. They replaced the head of its mobile design team amid criticism of the Galaxy S5 in May 2014, and recently added former Tangerine co-CEO Don Tae Lee as their global design team leader.

Lee was responsible for coming up with an award-winning design for British Airways’ business-class and first-class cabins, according to Korea Joongang Daily. He also worked with mobiles back in 2011 with Huawei and introduced some innovative design concepts that unfortunately never made it to production. At Samsung, Lee will be in charge of leading the design philosophy for not only smartphones, but other Samsung products including washers, televisions and refrigerators.

Lee is part of Samsung’s long game, though, and the company faces more immediate challenges. There will be a lot riding on the Galaxy S6, due out sometime in March, to be Samsung’s flagship on the premium front. Samsung’s $92 Tizen-powered smartphone, however, hasn’t been received too well in India, where the company hopes to gain traction on the mid to lower-end front.


Photo via Bloomberg News


Samsung’s $92 Tizen Smartphone Might Be the Next Big Thing

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Samsung just unveiled a new smartphone on Wednesday, but it’s probably not among those you’re looking for.

That is unless you’re in the market for a $92 smartphone (off-contract) that has the same specs as a device from, say, four years ago. But even if you were, you’d have to go to India to find one. If and once you cross the ocean, you’ll realize it doesn’t run Android, but something called Tizen (pronounced “tie-zen”). While the Z1 is one of the cheapest phones Samsung has ever launched, it’s also the first smartphone to feature Tizen, Samsung’s own mobile operating system.

What’s the big deal with Tizen? Samsung has made it very clear at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that it is heavily investing in it. Their smart TVs, smartwatches and wearables all come installed with Tizen, and soon, all Samsung devices will include Tizen, including household appliances such as washers, dryers, robotic vacuums and refrigerators. It’s part of this mystical “Internet of Things” (IoT) plan that Samsung emphasized heavily during the convention, and Tizen will be the operating system connecting all these devices into the IoT “ecosystem.”


Samsung’s wonderfully obnoxious Super Ultra-HD TV display in front of their booth at CES 2015. The displays are so beautiful you don’t notice the model standing in front until he’s pointed out to you. Photos by KoreAm.


But should Samsung be investing so much in Tizen? All of their devices apart from the Z1 exclusively run on Google’s Android, and of all the smartphones and tablets in the tech market, Apple and Microsoft are the main competitors. Google and Apple as well as Microsoft, to some extent, have had the time and money to refine Android, iOS and Windows.

The South Korean company also does not have a reputation as a software company. They build gadgets and hardware, albeit damned good ones. However, their attempts at software haven’t been too well-received. TouchWiz–Samsung’s user interface, which has features built on top of Android in Galaxy devices–has been criticized for being too ugly, completely unnecessary and a drag on memory and processing speed. Apparently, Samsung is scaling back TouchWiz in its upcoming Galaxy S6. It was also the main reason why this writer chose a Motorola smartphone over the Note 4, which had really amazing specs, but an annoying UI.

Another challenge will be to grow and nurture developers for Tizen. Apple and Google have had that covered while Microsoft and Blackberry (yes, they’re still around) have struggled to provide the same number and quality of programs for their users. Tizen, however, would be starting from the ground up.

Tizen-in-the-Big-PictureImage via Samsung Tomorrow

Samsung claims to have their bases covered. They tout Tizen to be “lighter” than other operating systems and more energy efficient, and the company specifically addressed creating an “expansive and vibrant ecosystem” for its users through supporting developers with software development kits for different Tizen devices.

They also echoed what Samsung CEO BK Yoon said during the company’s press conference at CES: Samsung isn’t in the game to “abandon” other operating systems. “Openness” and facilitating relationships with partners and other devices is key to a successful Internet of Things ecosystem.

At the end of the day, though, Samsung wants to make money, and Tizen might be their product to challenge Google and Apple in the mobile OS department. It remains to be seen if Tizen can break into the brand cultures Google and Apple have created with their own products.

If Samsung can “tie it all together” by proving that Tizen will be more convenient, affordable and just as cool as the others, it may have a chance. Strategy Analytics said last month that while Tizen will remain a niche player, it would be one of the fastest-growing operating systems along with Firefox and Windows in the next six years. Who knows, a $90 smartphone could truly be the “next big thing.” Or not.


LG and Samsung Lead the Charge for the ‘Internet of Things’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Samsung and LG are no strangers to the spotlight. For as long as anyone can remember, the two South Korean electronics giants have gone all-out to dazzle and impress audiences at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) convention every year. Smartphones, 4K (and even 8K) HD televisions, wearables, whatever it may be–Samsung and LG have always swung for the fences when it came to their devices.

But the 2015 CES had a remarkably different tone. For their respective press conferences before the convention began, Samsung and LG championed the “Internet of Things,” or IoT for short, as what the future of the industry would look like.

Yes, they still had their ridiculously beautiful televisions, appliances and curved smartphones, but discussion about the IoT took center stage.

“It is [arguably] the most important topic for our industry right now,” Yoon said during Samsung’s keynote address on Monday. “Many people believe that the IoT is something that is in the distant future. It’s not.”

LG’s president and CEO Skott Ahn called it a “key ingredient” in LG’s vision for the year ahead: Innovation for a Better Life.

“We live our life at home, at work, outside in the open and inside our cars,” Ahn said. “The true value of IoT lies in the innovation that is centered around our lives.”

LGImage courtesy of LG

Visiting their respective booths (more like fortresses) on the exhibition floor also showed more focus on the IoT. So, what is it exactly? The term has been thrown around in the tech industry for a few years now, but large companies haven’t made it their specific focus until really this year. The IoT is centered around the idea that not only smartphones and computers, but also everyday products and appliances are connected to the Internet and communicate with each other seamlessly.

The IoT puts everyone in the center of their own tech universe, as described by BK Yoon, Samsung’s President and CEO. Devices are equipped with sensors to learn about the individual’s lifestyle and are connected with one another to improve the unique living environment for the user.

LG’s presentation probably did the best job of breaking down the IoT into three main factors. First off, IoT platforms include smart devices and appliances. Open connectivity between devices, no matter what brand or operating system, is essential to create an “ecosystem” of platforms that seamlessly integrate. Sensors embedded in devices will constantly gather data from the user and communicate with each other to serve the user’s needs and improve his/her environment. Although this process of collecting data sounds complicated, the installation is supposedly easy.

“In other words,” Yoon explained, “we are bringing the physical and digital worlds together. … We don’t have to push buttons to activate them. Instead, these devices actively … protect us.”

BoothThe entrance to Samsung’s booth at CES 2015. Image via Samsung Tomorrow

Imagine waking up in the morning. Your wellness tracker observed your sleeping pattern during the night and woke you up at the optimal time. The thermostat adjusts itself to the proper temperature based on how cold or hot you are as the beautiful 4K television in your room automatically turns on to the morning news or ESPN. Or maybe, it’s your bluetooth speakers that greets you with your personalized playlist.

When you head out to work, your house locks itself down, and the robotic vacuum cleaner begins its rounds. Your car already knows to check the traffic conditions for your commute, and it has already turned on the engine and warmed up the driver’s seat. Maybe within the near future, the car will drive itself to work for you.

This is the tantalizing and exciting vision for consumers. The idea may sound far-fetched and eerily similar to the Disney Channel movie Smart House, but the IoT is a lot closer than people may think.

“It’s not science fiction anymore,” Yoon said. “It’s science fact. Actually, I would argue that the IoT has already started. But to unlock its benefits, we have to prove its worth in real life. The IoT, like all technology, has to measure up to people’s needs and expectations. It must be centered on humans and fit into their lifestyles.”

thingsThe potential scale of the Internet of Things. Image courtesy of Brussels Data Science Community

By 2017, Yoon forecasted, 90 percent of Samsung devices will be IoT-capable, and LG won’t be far off. No company would invest their future in the Internet of Things without having their own “things” to sell, and with the IoT still up for grabs, Samsung and LG seem eager to grab some real estate before other companies stake their claim.

In the bigger picture, the IoT will expand its data sharing capabilities that could affect communication, transportation, healthcare and managing energy usage. Business models in the tech industry now allow more room for collaboration and working across industry borders. Samsung and LG, for example, either acquired or worked with companies specializing in smart-home and automobile technology.

Increased connectivity and data, however, raise security concerns, and that will be one of the largest hurdles to clear for the IoT. Both Samsung and LG acknowledged the issue, and as the IoT continues to develop, data security and the protection of personal privacy will be concerns that the government will also need to address.

An even larger hurdle, perhaps, would be convincing consumers that the quality of their lives can improve by surrounding themselves with all these “things.” Do we need every single device we own to contain sensors and microprocessors? Are we comfortable with these sensors collecting data on us 24/7? Who’s in charge of storing and keeping the data?

When Apple unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, which now seems like an eternity ago, smartphones suddenly became not only accessible but also desirable to consumers, quickly making the device the ultimate symbol of cool. From that point onwards, the smartphone market took off. The Internet of Things might be the next big thing and an actual innovation for a truly better life. Someone may or may not come out with a product that changes the way we think about it. Who knows, maybe this time around it’ll be Samsung or LG leading the charge.


Fitbit Searches for Identity in a Crowded ‘Wearables’ Market

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Before James Park and Eric Friedman co-founded Fitbit in 2007, Park recalled watching people play Nintendo’s Wii and become excited about utilizing its motion control capabilities. Suddenly, he said, it was cool to be playing sports games on a machine not usually associated with fitness.

“I was really amazed at the way motion sensors, which at the time were not a very prevalent technology in the consumer space, with amazing software … and through games like [Wii Sports] and Wii Fit [made] video gaming very active and positive, unlike the normal association we have with games–couch potatoes, being out of shape,” Park said during an innovators panel at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). “Eric and I thought, ‘How do we capture a lot of this attitude people have and put it into a more [tangible] form?'”

fitbit_foundersEric Friedman, left, and James Park, the co-founders of Fitbit. Photo courtesy of Wired.com.

That idea planted the seed for Fitbit, which eventually fueled the so-called modern “wearables” era. The original Fitbit–the Zip–was a small, visually appealing activity tracker that counted steps, distance and calories burned, and it quickly became immensely popular. Fast forward eight years to 2015, and the Fitbit family includes five more products, two of which were announced this week at CES.

The new Fitbit Charge HR and the Fitbit Surge (shown above) both include the essential features found on the other three devices: steps, distance and calories burned. The Charge HR, however, includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, caller ID and sleep tracking, while the Surge includes all of the listed features plus GPS tracking and a larger display.

FitbitThe full Fitbit family (from left to right): Zip, One, Flex, Charge, Aria Smart Scale, Charge HR and Surge. Image courtesy of Fitbit

“When we first started the company, [not only was] the notion of ‘wearables’ still not very popular at all, but [we were] also not certain whether it could generate money for the company,” Park said at an innovators panel at CES. “There was a lot of skepticism, and a lot of investors questioning who would want this device.”

No one is questioning Fitbit now. The company owns 69 percent of marketshare in the wristband tracking industry as of last year, according to NPD Group, but the playing field is getting wider–much, much wider.

Until now, the industry tech writers have labeled the wearables industry as nascent, or up-and-coming. Fitness and activity trackers weren’t seen as much more than glorified pedometers for a long while. However, in the last few years, wearables have been on the verge of blowing up as Fitbit now faces competition from dozens and dozens of companies. Walking among the seemingly endless booths of fitness trackers and smartwatches at this year’s CES, sadly and ironically, made this writer quite tired.

From small start-ups to heavyweights like Samsung, LG and Sony, companies are churning out their own wearable tech. Samsung has their Galaxy Gear series; LG has their second G Watch R on the way; and Apple is poised to join the party this spring with the Apple Watch. Lenovo also unveiled their Vibe Band VB10 at CES this week, and Motorola’s Moto 360 has been selling well of late. Even clothing brands like Guess and Swarovski have teamed up with tech companies to hop on the wearables wagon with more fashionable devices and accessories.

AppleWatchCollectionsThe upcoming Apple Watch, expected in March, will start at $349.

Is the Fitbit CEO worried at all about the big name competition? Not really. And he shouldn’t be, for the time being. Park said most wearables are still trying to find their identity: Does it want to be fitness tracker, a smartwatch that pairs with a smartphone, a legitimate fashion accessory or all three? He emphasized that right now, less might be more for wearables.

“The first instinct might be to [think], ‘What are all the things we can cram into a device?'” Park explained. “But that’s not how you create a great product. … I think we did a very successful job of trying to manage all the different constraints.”

Park told Engadget that general purpose smartwatches haven’t figured out a clear reason why consumers would want one, at least not yet. Fitbit has always been dedicated to fitness tracking first and foremost, and Park said that wouldn’t change anytime soon.

When Fitbit decides to add extra features, they seem to take deliberate steps. For example, Fitbit teamed up with designer Tory Burch last year for a more elegant line of pendants and bracelets that can dress up the Fitbit. The initial line sold out in hours, according to Park.

The Caller ID feature on the Charge HR and Surge, as well as the larger display on the latter, is the closest Fitbit will probably come to addressing the looming number of smartwatches on the market–at least for a while. But for now, Fitbit remains the most recognized and popular brand of dedicated fitness tracker. The price point will definitely will keep Fitbit in the game for a while. The cheapest product, the Zip, runs $60, while the most expensive, the Surge, goes for a modest $250 in comparison to other high-end, dedicated smartwatches.

With huge names like Apple taking the wearables market seriously, it will only raise the profile of activity trackers and smartwatches from the dedicated fitness gurus and the hardcore techies to the average consumer. Keep an eye out for wearables in 2015–this might be the year you buy one, if you don’t have one yet.

You can find more information on the full Fitbit lineup at their website.


Featured image courtesy of Fitbit


LG Unveils a Refined G Flex 2 Smartphone at CES

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Once upon a time before phones became smart, they were also curved to fit the angle of our faces. So, why did smartphone manufacturers abandon the curve for giant rectangular screens?

“We gave up curves in favor of mobile connectivity,” said Frank Lee, head of brand marketing for LG Electronics MobileComm USA, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. “With the G Flex, and now the G Flex 2, we found a way to merge mobility and create comfort through a beautifully curved smartphone.”

G Flex AhnFrank Lee unveils the G Flex 2 at LG’s press conference at CES 2015.

The original G Flex, LG’s first foray into curved smartphones, launched in 2013 to mixed reviews. Critics praised the phone for having top-notch hardware and performance with great battery life and also noted the phone’s great durability, which was increased due to its flexible screen.

Still, most industry professionals said the premium price wasn’t worth it, and some even said the 6-inch screen was too large for the phone. For a first crack at a curved smartphone, though, LG did turn a few heads. The G Flex 2’s unveiling at CES revealed refined improvements over the original, including hardware that packs a powerful punch.


G Flex 2

“It is arguably our most ambitious smartphone yet,” Lee said. “It’s built primarily for the benefit on convenience with its enhanced viewing capability and the easy-to-hold shape.”

LG trimmed down its trademark bendable plastic OLED screen to 5.5 inches (the “sweet spot,” Ahn said) and increased the resolution to a very pretty 1080 x 1920 pixels and 403 pixels per inch. The screen can also take 20 percent more force than your average smartphone to prevent shattered displays, and the phone itself is more shock-resistant internally.

The Verge spoke with LG’s mobile architect Ramchan Woo, who apparently threw his G Flex 2 on the floor, then proceeded to stepping and sitting on the phone to prove its durability. Most people won’t put their phone through that much trauma, but it’s nice to know it can come out without a scratch.

G Flex 2 screen

“The curved form factor makes the phone more absorbent to the impact,” Lee explained. “It spreads that and disperses the energy across the screen as opposed to when a conventional flat phone is dropped.”

The outside cover of the phone brings back the original G Flex’s self-healing technology, but scratches and scuffs on the G Flex 2 can heal themselves in less than 10 seconds. The 13 megapixel camera features a laser-guided autofocus system and optimal image stabilization, the latter of which is a must on premium phones these days. Those without selfie sticks have it much easier with this phone, as the camera’s “Gesture Shot” feature allows users to use simple hand gestures, like making a fist, to capture the shot.


The G Flex 2 will be the first phone to ship with a beastly 64-bit Octa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset that runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Its 3,000 mAh battery should give users plenty of usage time, and it can charge up to 50 percent in 40 minutes if users are a bit crunched for time.

LG entered unexplored territory with their first G Flex smartphone. The G Flex 2 isn’t the earth-shattering piece of innovation that will change the smartphone landscape, but it is a very strong phone that for some will be visually and ergonomically pleasing.

The G Flex 2 is available in different models: 2 or 3 GB of RAM, and 16 or 32 GB of storage with a microSD drive. The phone will go on sale in South Korea in January, then make its rounds to other countries later in the year.


Photos courtesy of LG

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Frank Lee as Dr. Skott Ahn, President and CEO of LG Electronics. We regret this error.

HDI Flex

Samsung’s Flexible ‘Wearables’ Unlock Potential for New Designs


What’s great about “wearable” devices like Google Glass is that they don’t just offer fancy tech — they can be quite fashionable, too. For instance, Glass boasts multiple colors, frames, shades and even earbuds for their fearless wallet-wielding “Explorers.”


Samsung has a foot (or hand, if you will) in the wearables market with their Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but they’re looking to add another dimension to the game. Their answer to Glass, as well as future smartwatch interactions, will include flexible printed circuit boards (PCBs), according to Slash Gear.

Compared to Glass, which has rigid circuitboards that creates a quite visible protrusion on the device, a HDI-Flex PCB that bends freely could give wearables designers “far greater scope” in developing their products. The boards could allow for displays that hug the contours of the face more closely and be adjusted depending on the user.

Samsung Electro-Mechanics unveiled a number of flexible PCBs last week that could potentially make their way into future devices. As shown in the image above, one could wrap inside a face-hugging headset that looks a tad less conspicuous than Glass, while another could fit the curves of a flexible smartwatch that forms to a user’s wrist. There’s also a device more akin to a Bluetooth earpiece with a monocle display, apparently called the “Earphone.”

Samsung Eyepiece

This all makes the hushed rumors of the so-called “Samsung Gear Blink” a bit more tangible since Samsung revealed potential designs over a year ago. Keep your eyes and ears pealed because Samsung might unveil its line of eyewear in March 2015 or so.

Images via Slash Gear

Kakao users

SKoreans Consider Leaving KakaoTalk Amid Concerns Of Government Surveillance


Many South Koreans are considering leaving KakaoTalk and switching to other mobile messaging applications due to concerns over a government crackdown on rumors circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press.

In mid-September, the South Korean government announced that it would be taking “proactive” measures to prevent the spread of false and malicious postings on major portal websites through the creation of a special investigative team. This means if someone were to cause a serious social controversy through false accusations and rumors, then that individual could face detainment or punishment for his or her actions. The investigative team would then potentially gain access to private chat histories to seek out the origins of these rumors.


The announcement hasn’t sat well with South Korean social media users. Many have accused the government of censorship and attempting to control public opinion, and in the last few weeks, a considerable number have weighed dropping Kakao Talk in favor of different mobile messaging options.

The most popular alternative messaging application has been Telegram, a free Russia-based app that was created to avoid surveillance from Russian officials. On Friday, it was the most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store in South Korea; on the Google Play Store, Telegram was the No. 2 downloaded free communications app behind KakaoTalk. A few of the app’s South Korean users said in reviews that they left KakaoTalk to seek “asylum” from government surveillance and requested Telegram to add a Korean language service.

A research firm said an estimated 610,000 South Korean visited Telegram last week, a 40-fold increase compared to the numbers before the crackdown was announced. Smaller South Korean messaging apps, such as DonTalk, have seen higher downloads in recent weeks as well, along with other messengers that have their servers abroad.

Despite this mass migration, it’s hard to picture South Korea without KakaoTalk. After all, Nielsen reported at the end of 2013 that 93 percent of South Koreans used the application. Telegram hardly comes close, especially since it lacks the language option and special features such as emoticons and games that KakaoTalk provides.

President Park Geun-hye’s administration has been sensitive to social media. Many South Koreans were critical of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry sinking in April, and a number of them said their houses and social media accounts had been searched with court approval.

Park also relayed her unhappiness over online rumors during a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 16. She said that slander and false rumors on the Internet were causing division in the nation, and she ordered the justice ministry to investigate unfounded rumors on the Internet, which led to the formation of the investigative team.

They didn’t waste much time. On Oct. 1, a woman accused of libeling President Park was sentenced to four months in prison with a one-year stay of execution. The woman, identified only by the surname Tak, was found guilty of spreading false rumors that the president had an extramarital affair with her former mentor and his son-in-law.

Civic organizations also criticized police and government officials for recently seizing KakaoTalk chats and personal information of Labor Party leader Jung Jin-woo and about 3,000 of his acquaintances. They had gathered to demand a probe into the Sewol ferry disaster.

Daum Kakao, which was formed by the merger of Daum Communications and Kakao, has tried to assuage Kakao Talk users by saying that authorities could not look at users’ messages without a court order. Co-CEO of Daum Kakao, Lee Sirgoo, told reporters last week that the company had “top security technology to prevent leaks and hacking,” and that KakaoTalk messages were only stored on servers for only three days before getting permanently deleted.

However, Lee said Kakao Talk was still “subject to South Korean law” and would still hand over information “when there is a fair execution of law.”