Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has been slapped with a historic 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) fine by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the lead privacy regulator in the European Union. The fine imposed due to Meta’s continued transfer of user data to the United States, in violation of a 2020 EU court ruling that invalidated an EU-US data transfer agreement. This penalty surpasses the previous record fine of 746 million euros imposed on Amazon.com Inc by Luxembourg in 2021.
The dispute over data storage by Meta has been ongoing for a decade, originating from concerns raised by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems regarding the risk of US surveillance. Meta has stated its intention to appeal the ruling, objecting to the “unjustified and unnecessary fine” and highlighting the potential implications it may have for other companies. Additionally, Meta intends to seek a suspension of the orders requiring it to halt data transfers.
Meta has expressed confidence that a new data transfer pact, facilitating the secure transfer of personal data of EU citizens to the US, will fully implement before the suspension of transfers becomes necessary. The company has warned of the consequences of halting data transfers, stating that it could lead to the fragmentation of the internet into national or regional boundaries.
The DPC has previously indicated that EU and US officials are working toward a new data protection framework, which they agreed upon in March 2022, with the aim of having it ready by July. The European Court of Justice has invalidated two previous data transfer pacts due to concerns about US surveillance practices.
Privacy campaigner Max Schrems doubts that the new agreement will provide a permanent solution, suggesting that as long as US surveillance laws remain unchanged, Meta will likely need to store EU data within the EU.
The Irish DPC, responsible for regulating numerous top technology companies, has emphasized that the suspension order against Meta could set a precedent for other firms. This decision to impose a fine had not initially proposed by the DPC but supported by four other EU supervising authorities.
In addition to the substantial fine, the Irish regulator is actively investigating Meta on multiple fronts, with ten ongoing inquiries into the platforms operated by the social media giant.
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