Use encrypted personal number for privacy, S Korea tells public

The South Korean government on Saturday asked the public to use their encrypted personal numbers, instead of phone numbers, to protect privacy when they have to write down entry logs at places like restaurants and cafes as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Last month, the government rolled out a new privacy protection measure allowing people to use encrypted private numbers for visits to such places.

An encrypted number consists of a combination of four numbers and two letters, and it cannot be used for phone calls or text messaging.

It can be converted by authorities only when there is an urgent need to contact the holder of the number for virus-related reasons.

One can get his or her unique encrypted number on the QR code generating page of Naver, the country’s biggest portal site, the ubiquitous messaging service KakaoTalk or the authentication application PASS.

The number will remain unchanged and valid until the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Yonhap news agency.

High-risk facilities and most business establishments, like cinemas, cafes and restaurants, have required visitors to submit either a QR-code based entry log or a handwritten one for quick tracing of possible contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Privacy concerns had been raised with the latter, as people were required to log their personal information, including a phone number, often on the same sheet of paper.

Information gathered through smartphone QR codes was found to be safe, as it is automatically deleted after four weeks.