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South Korea fines Google and Meta a combined $71 million over privacy violations

South Korean authorities announced that they have fined Google and Meta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram—roughly $71.8 million after finding that the tech giants violated the country’s privacy law.

South Korea’s privacy watchdog, the Personal Information and Protection Commission (PIPC), said it fined Google 69.2 billion won ($50 million) and Meta 30.8 billion won ($22 million) after officials determined that the companies’ business practices might cause “serious” privacy infringements.

The PIPC found that Google and Meta collected information about users’ online activities when they accessed websites or services outside the companies’ own platforms. Further, the companies did not clearly inform users or obtain their consent regarding this collection of data, writes the Associated Press. According to the commission, the data was used to analyze users’ interests and create individually customized advertisements.

“Google did not clearly inform consumers that it would collect and use their behavioral information about their use of other companies’ (services) when they signed up,” the commission said. “Meta did not present the content of consent in way that could be easily seen by consumers when they signed up, and just included the content in their full data policy statement. It did not specifically inform consumers of the legally required notifications and did not obtain their consent.”

This is the largest penalty South Korean officials have issued for violating personal information protection laws, reports TechCrunch. The fine also represents the country’s first sanction regarding the collection and use of behavioral information on online customized advertising platforms.

Both companies disagreed with the commission’s findings.

“We disagree with the PIPC’s findings, and will be reviewing the full written decision once it’s shared with us,” a Google spokesperson said. “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.”

A Meta spokesperson said, “While we respect the commission’s decision, we are confident that we work with our clients in a legally compliant way that meets the processes required by local regulations. As such, we do not agree with the commission’s decision, and will be open to all options including seeking a ruling from the court.”

Meta indicated it may challenge its fine in court, according to the AP.