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22 May, 2023 13:51

Facebook parent Meta fined €1.2 billion by Irish watchdog

The American tech company has been accused of violating EU data privacy rules
Facebook parent Meta fined €1.2 billion by Irish watchdog

US tech giant Meta has been hit with a record €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) fine for transferring the personal data of European users to US servers.

According to the Irish Data Protection Commission, which overseas Meta’s operations in the EU, the company violated the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by continuing to send the personal data of EU citizens to the US despite a 2020 European court ruling against such a procedure. 

The privacy watchdog stated on Monday that Meta’s use of a legal instrument known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs) to move data to the US “did not address the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms” of Facebook’s European users raised by a landmark ruling from the EU’s top court. 

In 2020, the European Court of Justice enacted an EU-US data flows agreement known as the Privacy Shield over fears of surveillance by American intelligence services. It also tightened the requirements for using SCCs, a practice widely employed by companies to transfer personal data to the US.

On Monday, the Irish Data Protection Commission told Meta to “suspend any future transfer of personal data to the US within the period of five months” of the decision.

The $1.3 billion fine is the largest ever imposed for violating the GDPR privacy law. E-commerce giant Amazon was previously fined €746 million for running afoul of data processing regulations in 2021.

Meta said it would appeal the decision and the fine.

“We are appealing these decisions and will immediately seek a stay with the courts who can pause the implementation deadlines, given the harm that these orders would cause, including to the millions of people who use Facebook every day,” Sir Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, and Jennifer Newstead, chief legal officer at the company, stated on Monday.

The EU and US are reportedly finalizing a new data flow agreement that could come as early as July and as late as October. Meta has until October 12 to stop relying on SCCs to transfer data.

The tech giant has warned that if it is forced to stop using SCCs without a proper alternative data flow deal in place, it could close down services such as Facebook and Instagram in Europe.

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