Russia Today reported that the April 13 ruling issued by the Supreme Court of Korea (SCK) was binding, even though the case against Google continues in the Seoul High Court (SHC). In its decision, the SCK ruled in favor of four South Korean activists who sued the search engine giant and its local branch Google Korea in 2014. The lawsuit sought to force the company to reveal whether it had gathered or shared their data.
The four plaintiffs alleged that personal information was passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) through its PRISM program. First launched in 2007 during the second Bush administration, PRISM collects a massive amount of data from the internet itself as well as from service providers directly. Private communications are also included in this collected data. (Related: Google, Facebook, others accepted millions from NSA to turn over spy data on its users.)
Under South Korean law, internet service providers must respond to customer inquiries related to their own data – especially if it has been shared with third parties. However, an appeals court previously ruled in favor of the search engine giant. The appellate court said Google has the right to reject such requests, so long as the decision was in line with American law.
The SCK partially overturned that ruling, declaring that Google must disclose the relevant information requested by the plaintiffs regardless of U.S. law. It nevertheless returned the case to the SHC for further litigation.
"Comprehensive consideration should be given to whether the need to respect foreign laws is significantly superior to the need to protect personal information," South Korea's highest court said in a statement.
The SCK also ruled that companies must disclose if they transferred an individual's personal data to a foreign intelligence service such as the NSA for legitimate reasons, even though the person in question is no longer under investigation.
Google Korea said in a statement that it plans to review the SCK's April 13 decision "carefully." It also emphasized that protecting the privacy of its users is an important issue for the Big Tech firm.
The NSA's PRISM program was revealed to the public in 2013, thanks to the efforts of former government contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden. Documents leaked by Snowden called PRISM "the No. 1 source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports." He denounced the surveillance program as "dangerous" and accused the NSA of "criminal acts."
It is not surprising that Google and the NSA would inevitably be linked, as in the example of the South Korean case. Systems theorist and investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed expounded on this connection in a January 2015 article on Medium.
He divulged that retired Gen. Keith Alexander, who served as the NSA's director from 2005 until 2014, had been emailing Google co-founder Sergey Brin back in 2012. The emails between the two, obtained by investigative journalist Jason Leopold under a Freedom of Information Act request, mainly tackled "information sharing for national security." In one of the emails, Alexander described Google as a "key member of the [U.S. military's] defense industrial base."
"Brin's jovial relationship with the former NSA chief now makes perfect sense, given that Brin had been in contact with representatives of the Central Intelligence Agency and NSA – [which] partly funded and oversaw his creation of the Google search engine – since the mid-1990s," Ahmed wrote.
Listen to Patrick C. Toomey, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, explaining what the NSA's PRISM project is all about.
This video is from the jonastheprophet channel on Brighteon.com.