SOUTH KOREA SLAPS GOOGLE AND META WITH $72 MILLION FINE FOR VIOLATING THE COUNTRY’S PRIVACY LAWS

South Korea’s PIPC, or the Personal Information Protection Commission, a branch of the government that is charged with protecting personal information and privacy laws in the country, imposed several fines and penalties on Google and Meta over the violations of the country’s privacy laws.

The fines total KRW 100 billion or roughly $72 million. Google has been dealt the bigger hit, with a fine of KRW 69.2 billion or around $50 million, whereas Meta was fined KRW 30.8 billion or roughly $22 million. The two companies were accused of not acquiring legitimate consent before collecting user information through third-party websites and apps.

The South Korean PIPC found that Google did not inform users that it would collect and use a user’s behavioral data. Google was also chastised for setting the default choice to “agree” while making it difficult for users to opt-out of the data collection by hiding the other options behind a “More options” button. The PIPC observed that this was in contrast to what European users see.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, on the other hand, started asking South Korean users to accept its updated privacy policy by August 8, or they would lose access to their Facebook and Instagram accounts on August 9. This action led the South Korean PIPC to look closely at Meta’s operations in the country.

Meta and Google, meanwhile, have stated that they will be taking the necessary steps to challenge the PIPC’s ruling. In a statement issued to certain media outlets, Meta said, “While we respect the PIPC’s decision, we are confident that we work with our clients in a legally compliant way that meets the processes required by local regulations. We disagree with the commission’s decision and will be open to all options, including seeking a ruling from the court.”

A spokesperson from Google told Reuters that they disagree with the Korean PIPC’s findings, and will review the written decision, once they get a copy of it. The spokesperson added, “We’ve always demonstrated our commitment to making ongoing updates that give users control and transparency while providing the most helpful products possible. We remain committed to engaging with the PIPC to protect the privacy of South Korean users.”

Apart from paying the fine, Google and Meta have also been ordered to rework their consent dialogues and formulate them in a way that complies with South Korea’s privacy laws.

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