The South Korean government has imposed a total of 100 billion won ($72 million) in fines against Google and Meta for illegally collecting and using personal information for customized advertisements, officials said Wednesday.
The Personal Information Protection Commission under the Prime Minister's Office decided to impose fines of 69.2 billion won and 30.8 billion won against Google and Meta, respectively, after it held a plenary session earlier in the day.
According to the PIPC’s investigation into major online platforms with customized advertisements since February, Google and Meta were found to have been collecting and analyzing users’ behavioral patterns on different companies' websites and applications to utilize such information for tailored advertisements without notifying the users in advance or obtaining their consent.
The PIPC issued a corrective order to the two companies that they must inform their users clearly and easily, obtain consent and allow users the freedom to decide before collecting and utilizing users’ behavioral information from other firms.
The PIPC said Google has not clearly notified users of its collection and usage of users’ information for at least six years since 2016. The global IT giant used an expedient of setting the default option to agreeing with providing information while hiding the choice of viewing more options, the commission explained.
In the case of Meta, the PIPC said the company used its users’ behavioral information from other companies for customized advertisements since July 2018. There were no clear notifications or efforts to obtain consent from users, according to the PIPC.
According to the investigation, over 82 percent of Korean Google users and 98 percent of Korean Meta users had set their privacy agreements to allow the IT companies’ collection of their behavioral information from other firms. The PIPC said this has a high risk of infringing the rights of the information subject.
Wednesday’s decision marked the first sanction against online customized-advertisement platforms collecting and using people’s behavioral information on the web. It was also the largest fine for the violation of personal information protection laws.
A Meta spokesperson told The Korea Herald that the company disagrees with the PIPC's decision and it would seek all options including bringing the case to court. Representatives from Google did not respond to a request for comment.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org