EU Slaps $1.3B Fine on Meta for Violating GDPR EU User Data Protection Laws

| Updated
by Tolu Ajiboye · 3 min read
EU Slaps $1.3B Fine on Meta for Violating GDPR EU User Data Protection Laws
Photo: Depositphotos

On Monday, the EU imposed a record $1.3 billion fine on social media giant Meta for transferring EU user data to the US. 

Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ: META) recently incurred a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) fine from the European Union (EU) for privacy violations. European privacy regulators alleged that the Facebook parent unlawfully transferred data from European users to the US.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which announced the penalty, also ordered Meta to cease the further transfer of EU user data to the US. However, Meta said it would appeal the Irish watchdog’s decision.

Details of EU Fine

The EU fine on Meta is one of the most consequential in the five-year existence of the landmark data privacy law. This law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), was established to protect the rights of the EU member citizenry from overseas ‘snooping’. Such unwanted activities include collating and analyzing the photos, friend connections, direct messages, and data of EU users for targeted advertising.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission alleged that Meta continued to infringe upon the GDPR’s dictates despite a definitive European court ruling in July 2020. This 2020 legal case at the European Court of Justice saw the EU’s apex court invalidate the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework. The primary reason given by the European court at the time was that EU data conveyed to the US did not have sufficient protection from American spy agencies.

Privacy Shield had posed to be the main vehicle that could facilitate the legal transfer of personal data from the EU to the US. However, its backers failed to convince the court of its adequate safeguards.

Explaining the penalty, the Irish Data Protection Commission detailed how Meta carried out its ‘infringements.’ According to the watchdog, the Facebook parent deployed standard contractual clauses for the EU personal data transfer. These clauses were adopted by the European Commission, in addition to other Meta-implemented measures. Interestingly, no EU court blocked these clauses. However, the Data Protection Commission said those schematics failed to address the “risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of data subjects”.

Meta Vows to Push Back Against ‘Unfair’ Fine

Monday’s ruling applies only to Facebook and not to other Meta-owned social media platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

However, Meta described the EU’s punitive measures as unfair treatment. It also argued that other companies practice similar data-sharing methods. In a statement, the Menlo Park-based company’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, and Chief Legal Officer, Jennifer Newstead, said:

“Without the ability to transfer data across borders, the internet risks being carved up into national and regional silos, restricting the global economy and leaving citizens in different countries unable to access many of the shared services we have come to rely on.”

Furthermore, the duo also stated:

“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.”

Proposed EU-US Cross-Data Transfer Pact Back in Focus

Meta’s case reflects the ongoing development between the EU and the US to agree to a new data transfer mechanism. Last year, both parties agreed, in principle, to a new framework that facilitates trans-Atlantic data transfers. However, this new pact is yet to come into effect.

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