Google and Meta fined millions in South Korea for privacy violations

14 Sep 2022

Image: © Sundry Photography/

The fines in South Korea come as an EU court has upheld an antitrust fine for Google in excess of €4bn.

South Korea has fined Google and Meta millions of dollars after the platforms were deemed to be in violation of the country’s privacy laws.

The Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC), a state-run watchdog akin to data protection commissions in EU countries, said today (14 September) that it had fined Google 69.2bn won and Meta 30.8bn won for the privacy violations. This amounts to total fines of around $70m.

The watchdog said that Google and Meta collected and analysed the personal behavioural information of South Koreans without obtaining their consent. It added that this data was then used to infer their interests and show them customised online advertisements.

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

A Meta spokesperson added that the Facebook parent company is considering fighting the decision in court.

“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,” they said. “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.”

The fines are the highest-ever imposed on tech companies for violating South Korea’s personal information protection law, according to Financial Times. The privacy commission has now ordered Google and Meta to clearly inform users prior to collecting and using their personal data.

Troubles in the EU

Both Google and Facebook have come under the microscope in the EU for their data collection policies. In January, France’s data regulator fined Google and Facebook €150m and €60m respectively for not allowing users to refuse tracking cookies as easily as accepting them.

In June, the Italian data protection authority joined France and Austria in issuing a warning to websites using Google Analytics, stating that use of the service without safeguards violates EU data protection laws due to data being transferred to the US.

News of the latest fines in South Korea comes as an EU court upheld an antitrust ruling today against Google parent Alphabet. It followed a probe into whether the search giant uses the Android platform to gain an unfair advantage over competitors.

While the dispute between Google and the EU first started in 2015, a fine was issued in 2018 after the European Commission found that Google imposed “unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android devices” to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine.

Google appealed the European Commission’s decision, but it has now been broadly upheld by the EU’s General Court. However, the fine has been reduced from €4.34bn to €4.125bn.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic