Meta, Google challenge South Korea’s privacy watchdog in court

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Mar. 8, 2023 10:20PM GMT+9

A South Korean regulator is bracing for a legal battle with Facebook parent Meta and Google after the companies filed a lawsuit last month against the privacy watchdog’s decision to give them the largest fine in the agency’s history, 100 billion won ($75 million), for violating the nation’s privacy law.

According to the Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) on Wednesday, the two companies have filed an administrative lawsuit against the organization on February 7 and 13 respectively, refuting all of the orders the regulator has imposed upon them. Companies can file a suit within 90 days after they have been formally notified if they disagree with the privacy watchdog’s conclusion.

Last September, the South Korean agency imposed fines of 69.2 billion won ($52 million) on Google and 30.8 billion won ($23 million) on Meta after a year and a half investigation into the company’s business practices. The PIPC concluded that both companies violated the privacy law by not obtaining lawful consent from their users when collecting personal information that was automatically tracked online for advertising purpose. The PIPC also ordered the companies to establish user friendly business practices by informing and receiving consent from customers when they want to use such data.

After the privacy watchdog’s announcement, Meta has implied that they might take this case to the court. “While we respect the PIPC’s decision, we are confident that we work with our clients in a legally compliant way that meets the processes required by local regulations,” said a spokesperson from Meta in an email statement to The Readable in September 16. “As such, we do not agree with the PIPC’s decision, and will be open to all options including seeking a ruling from the court.”

As Meta and Google chose to fight back against the PIPC’s decision, the South Korean regulator prepares for a legal battle that might affect the country’s data regulations. “We are looking at  this case in a grave manner, as it is essential in the context of the data environment,” said Ko Hak-soo, the chairman of the PIPC, in a press conference that was held on March 7.

The Readable reached out to Google through email for comment but did not receive an immediate response. “Since it is an ongoing process, we cannot share any information,” said a spokesperson for Meta to The Readable.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

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.