Korean Company Kakao Lands In Controversy After Launching Free Messaging App Kakao Talk For PC

Korean Company Kakao launches PC version in the home country but lands in a controversy of collecting MAC addresses of PC users. Though the company has a given official press releases stating how they work and the claims are false.

Kakao, the maker of popular mobile messaging service Kakao Talk from South Korea had said in May that they are going to launch a desktop version by June. TNW had recently published a story confirming the release and International users will get the service by 26th June.

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However, the launch has now landed in a bit of controversy. The Korea Herald published a story yesterday saying that Kakao Talk, the nation’s top mobile messenger, is collecting the MAC addresses of users’ devices. The move has been described as one to prevent multiple downloads.

The news brought in some concerns as a MAC address is a unique identifier given to all Internet-enabled devices and could cause significant security issues if it lands up in wrong hands. But Kakao has rejected the reports and has addressed that the company has no intention in collecting MAC addresses and has been falsely reported. TNW which published the story has shared a company statement that provides clarity on how it identifies PC downloads.

With KakaoTalk PC, we generate a hash code (a undecodable unique identification code) for individual computer devices based on various hardware information in order to distinguish individual devices, but the MAC address is not part of the information that is collected in this process.

The information we extract from the LAN card is the device model information, which is used to check whether a user was using a wire or wireless network connection. This information is only collected when an error has occurred and when the user decides to send an error report to Kakao.

Wonder what made Korea Herald publish a story related to MAC addresses; may be the LAN card information might have raised confusion. Not sure if they approached the company before publishing the claims.

Nevertheless, the PC launch of Kakao is believed to dramatically change the landscape of South Korea’s instant messaging market. The free messaging app that was launched in 2010 in all major mobile platforms has 90 million registered users worldwide. With the latest development Kakao has increased the chances of users potentially switching to the desktop version and giving a stiff competition to NateOn, the messenger service by SK Communications Co. – leading PC messaging service in South Korea with a market share of more than 80 percent.

The latest features such as the launch of Kakao Home a Facebook Home style launcher app in its home country which clocked one million downloads in a matter of 13 days along with the PC version, will add value for its users.