Google, Meta Face Huge Fines Over Privacy Violations In South Korea

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South Korea’s privacy watchdog has fined Google and Meta more than $71 million for gathering users’ personal information and tracking consumers’ online behaviour without consent for targeted ads.

This was revealed by South Korea’s Personal Information and Protection Commission noting that investigations into the two US tech giants found they had been “collecting and analysing” data on their users, and monitoring their use of websites and applications.

The data was used to “infer the users’ interests or used for customised online advertisements”, it said, adding that neither Google nor Meta had informed South Korean users of this practice or obtained their consent in advance.

The commission has fined Google 69.2 billion won ($50 million) and Meta 30.8 billion, won ($22 million) after a meeting where officials agreed that the companies’ business practices might cause serious privacy infringements.

“It is the largest fine for the violation of the Personal Information Protection Act,” the commission said in a statement.

Regulators said the majority of the users in South Korea are 82 percent for Google and 98 percent for Meta and had unknowingly allowed them to collect data on their online use.

“It can be said that the possibility and the risk of infringement of the rights of the users are high,” the statement said.

However, the commission has ordered the companies to provide an “easy and clear” process of consent, giving people more control over whether to share information about what they do online.

Google and Meta didn’t immediately comment on the fines. The companies can appeal the fines through administrative lawsuits, which must be filed within 90 days after they formally receive the commission’s decision.

Recently, South Korea fined Google nearly $180 million for abusing its dominance in the mobile operating systems and app markets, saying it was hampering market competition.

Giant US tech companies are regularly criticised for dominating markets by elbowing out rivals, with multiple governments globally seeking to rein them in.

The European Union has also slammed Google with record antitrust penalties and has also gone after Apple and Microsoft.

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