Meta Is Fined $1.3 Billion for Facebook’s EU Privacy Violation

Meta Platforms has been hit with a record $1.3 billion fine for violating European Union rules that prohibit transferring the data of EU citizens to other countries. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the agency of record in the region in which Meta was sued, said that the tech giant continues to operate outside of compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) after a 2020 ruling by the bloc’s highest court found that Facebook user data was being shipped to America without adequate protection from U.S. spy agencies.

Meta says it will appeal the decision, adding that there will be “no immediate disruption to Facebook’s service in the Europe Union,” writes The New York Times. The EU’s ruling “shows how government policies are upending the borderless way that data has traditionally moved.”

It is “unclear if or when Meta will ever need to cordon off the data of Facebook users in Europe,” NYT says, noting that concurrent with the massive fine “European Union and American officials are negotiating a new data-sharing pact that would provide legal protections for Meta and scores of other companies to continue moving information between the United States and Europe — a pact that could nullify much of the European Union’s ruling.”

The ruling, which has “a grace period of at least five months before Meta needs to comply, applies only to Facebook and not to Instagram and WhatsApp, which Meta also owns,” according to NYT.

The record fine against Meta involves U.S. policies that permit intelligence agencies to intercept digital correspondence and other electronic communications originating abroad. Based on those policies, Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems in 2020 sued to invalidate the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield pact.

The Privacy Shield allowed social media companies, including Facebook and others “to move data between the two regions,” says NYT. The European Court of Justice sided with Schrems, opining that the risk of U.S. data appropriation violated the rights of European users.

“Unless U.S. surveillance laws get fixed, Meta will have to fundamentally restructure its systems,” Schrems said in a statement on Monday.

In Q1 Meta had close to $117 billion in global revenue, and CFO Susan Li said roughly 10 percent of the company’s total ad revenue was generated by Facebook ads delivered to users in E.U. countries.

CNBC says “the 1.2 billion euro punishment for Meta is the highest any company has ever been fined for breaching GDPR” and that “the previous largest fine was a 746 million euro charge for e-commerce giant Amazon for violating GDPR in 2021.”

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