Facebook to be Fined £648m for Mishandling User Information – As an Irish regulator prepares to punish the social media network for its treatment of user information, Facebook will be fined more than €746 million (£648 million) and ordered to cease data transfers to the US.
The amount, which was originally reported by Bloomberg and is anticipated to be verified as soon as Monday, will establish a record for a violation of the EU’s general data protection legislation (GDPR), surpassing the €746 million fine imposed on Amazon by Luxembourg in 2021.
The ruling by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which is the EU’s principal privacy regulator for Facebook and its owner Meta, is also anticipated to halt data transfers from European users to the US. The decision is unlikely to go into effect right now. Meta is expected to be granted a grace period to comply with the judgment, potentially pushing any suspension until the autumn, and the business is expected to file an appeal.
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The decision is related to a court challenge made by Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy campaigner, over concerns raised by the Edward Snowden revelations that European users’ data is not adequately protected from US spy agencies when moved over the Atlantic.
Meta’s policy chief, Nick Clegg, wrote in 2020 that suspending data transfers based on standard contractual clauses (SCCs) – a mechanism used by Facebook and others – could have “a far-reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs and on the online services many people and businesses rely on”.
In Meta’s most recent quarterly results, the company said that without SCCs or “other alternative means of data transfers” it would “likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.”
According to Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and a campaigner for improved data security for internet users, a cash penalty in excess of €746 million would be insufficient if Facebook did not fundamentally modify its user data-reliant business model.
“A billion-euro parking ticket is of no consequence to a company that earns many more billions by parking illegally,” he said. Since September 2021, the Irish data police has fined Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, about €1 billion. It also oversees Apple, Google, TikTok, and other technological platforms with European headquarters in Ireland.
The watchdog penalized Meta €265 million (£230 million) in November last year for a breach that led to the identities of over 500 million users being disclosed online.
This comes only weeks after a €405 million fine for allowing youngsters to create Instagram accounts that advertised their phone numbers and email addresses openly. Any suspension would be rendered useless if the United States and the European Union implemented a new data transfer agreement reached at the political level.
A Meta spokesperson said: “This case relates to a historic conflict of EU and US law, which is in the process of being resolved via the new EU-US Data Privacy Framework. We welcome the progress that policymakers have made towards ensuring the continued transfer of data across borders and await the regulator’s final decision on this matter.”
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The latest issues for Meta arose after the company announced better-than-expected first-quarter revenue of $28 billion last month. Meta, which owns Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, has been attempting to transition away from social media and toward the development of the metaverse, its virtual reality platform.
Investors were concerned about the billions spent on those initiatives because Meta has struggled to compete with the emergence of TikTok, which has proven particularly popular among younger people. Meanwhile, the firm has announced significant layoffs as part of a “year of efficiency” that its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, declared in February.