Techable.com, Dublin, May 22 – Meta (META.O), the tech giant, faced a record-setting penalty of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) from its primary EU privacy regulator due to its data handling practices. The company has also been given a five-month deadline to cease data transfers to the United States.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) issued the fine following Meta’s continuous data transfers despite a 2020 EU court decision that nullified the EU-U.S. data transfer agreement. The fine surpasses the former record EU privacy fine of 746 million euros given to Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) in 2021 by Luxembourg.
The controversy concerning where Meta’s Facebook saves its user data initiated ten years ago. This was due to a legal dispute led by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems about the risk of U.S. espionage following revelations by Edward Snowden, former U.S. National Security Agency contractor.
Meta announced its plan to contest the decision, describing the fine as “unjustified and unnecessary” that “establishes a risky precedent for countless other businesses.” The company plans to request a suspension of the execution orders through legal channels.
The social media behemoth restated its anticipation that a new pact enabling safe EU citizens’ personal data transfer to the U.S. would be operational before it needs to halt transfers. This implies that its earlier caution that a stoppage might cause a suspension of Facebook services in Europe may not materialize.
“Without cross-border data transfer capabilities, the internet faces the threat of fragmentation into national and regional sections,” stated Meta.
The DPC announced in March that the new data protection framework – brokered by Brussels and Washington in March 2022 – might be ready by July.
Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, discarded the two earlier agreements due to U.S. surveillance concerns.
Schrems, the Austrian privacy advocate, doubts Meta’s reliance on the new agreement for future transfers would be a long-term solution.
“In my estimation, the new deal has approximately a 10% chance of not being overruled by the CJEU (EU Court of Justice). Unless U.S. surveillance laws are remedied, Meta will probably have to store EU data within the EU,” he stated.
The Irish watchdog, acting as the main EU regulator for numerous top global technology corporations due to their European headquarters’ location in Ireland, anticipates the suspension order might set a precedent for other companies.
The DPC has now imposed a total of 2.5 billion euros in fines on Meta for violating the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in 2018.
The DPC revealed that it didn’t initially plan to add a fine to the suspension order. However, the proposal was opposed by four other EU supervising authorities, and following a decision by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the record fine was imposed.
The Irish regulator has levied higher fines on Meta compared to any other tech firm and currently has ten additional investigations open into the social media company’s platforms.