Google, Meta fined $71.8 million for violating South Korea's privacy law

South Korea has fined Google and Meta ~$71.8 million (KRW 100 billion) after finding that they violated the country’s privacy law, the country’s authorities said on Wednesday.

The watchdog said in its statement that Google and Meta did not obtain legal consent in the process of collecting information from users who visit their websites and use other websites and apps for personalized ads.

Google did not clearly inform users about the collection and use of information about the behavior of other companies when they signed up for its service and set the default choice to “agree”, while obscuring additional options available through the settings screen, they explained the country’s authorities in a press release.

The Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) ordered the companies to correct the violations and imposed fines of KRW 69.2 billion (~$50 million) on Google and KRW 30.8 billion (~$22 million) on Meta.

It is South Korea’s largest penalty for violating privacy laws and the country’s first sanction related to the collection and use of behavioral information on online personalized advertising platforms, according to the country’s watchdog.

“While we respect the PIPC’s decision, we are confident that we work with our customers in a legally compliant manner that meets the processes required by local regulations,” a Meta spokesperson told TechCrunch. “As such, we disagree with the commission’s decision and will be open to all options, including seeking a court ruling.”

Overseas watchdogs have fined Google and Meta for failing to comply with data protection regulations in recent years. In 2019, the French data protection supervisory authority, the CNIL, issued its first General Data Protection Regulation $57 million fine for violations of transparency and consent. While Facebook-owned WhatsApp was fined $267 million for violating the GDPR’s transparency principle last year. Germany’s Federal Cartel Office also ordered a limiting the collection of Meta data to users from third-party websites without their permission. This order remains under legal challenge in the EU.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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