Court rules in favor of South Korea’s privacy watchdog in Cambridge Analytica lawsuit

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Oct. 26, 2023 8:14PM GMT+9

South Korean court sides with privacy agency’s decision to fine Meta Platforms Inc. for allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access users’ private information without express consent.

On Thursday October 26, Seoul Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Facebook parent company, Meta, against the South Korean Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) for a 2020 decision the Commission made against the company. While the court did not explain the details of its decision, it noted, following a thorough examination of the plaintiff’s claims, that the Commission was legally justified in taking the steps it did against Meta.

In 2020, the PIPC imposed a fine of 6.7 billion won ($5 million) on Meta, then known solely as Facebook, and ordered the social media platform to work with the South Korean regulator to cease and desist in the sharing of personal information with third parties. This decision was reached following an extensive internal investigation launched by the PIPC against Facebook in 2018. The South Korean agency was spurred to look for violations following news that Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm, had harvested Facebook users’ private information to target them for tailored political advertisements in the 2016 US presidential election, advertisements arguably constituting election interference.

The PIPC’s investigation revealed that when users logged in to other websites using their Facebook account, not only was their own personal information shared, but also that of their Facebook friends, and all without anyone’s knowledge. The PIPC explained the violations occurred from between May of 2012 to June of 2018 and that more than three million South Korean users were impacted. The shared data included information on users’ names, gender, place of birth, marital status, and internet search history.

A representative from Meta’s South Korean office spoke to The Readable about the court’s ruling and said that they are open to all possibilities and will thoroughly examine the court’s decision.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.