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EU slaps Meta with a record-breaking fine of $1.3 billion for exporting European data to US

Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook, has been hit with a record-breaking €1.2 billion or $1.3 billion fine by the European Union for failing to protect European users’ personal data from the surveillance activities of American security services.

The Irish Data Protection Commission, in its decision announced on Monday, stated that Meta’s data transfers to the US did not adequately address the risks to individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

Meta fined for sending data to US security and intelligence agencies
On Monday, the privacy watchdog declared that Meta’s utilization of standard contractual clauses (SCCs) as a means to transfer data to the United States failed to adequately address the concerns regarding the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Facebook users in Europe. This concern arose from a significant ruling issued by the European Union’s highest court.

Also read: Meta employees call out Mark Zuckerberg for paying fat bonuses to execs during mass layoffs

In addition to the hefty fine, surpassing the previous €746 million penalty imposed on Amazon for privacy violations in the EU, Meta has been given a five-month deadline to halt any future transfer of personal data to the US and a six-month deadline to cease the unlawful processing and storage of transferred personal data from the EU in the US.

While the ban on data transfers for Meta was anticipated and had previously prompted the company to threaten withdrawal from the EU, the impact of the decision has been softened by the transition phase provided and the potential establishment of a new EU-US data flows agreement, which could be operational as early as mid-year.

EU and US to share data?
This recent decision is the latest development in a longstanding dispute that ultimately left Facebook and numerous other companies in legal uncertainty. In 2020, the EU’s highest court invalidated an EU-US agreement governing transatlantic data transfers due to concerns about the safety of individuals’ data once it reached US servers.

Also read: Zuckerberg knew Facebook and Instagram were addictive and harmful to children, did nothing

Although the court did not invalidate an alternative mechanism based on contractual clauses, doubts about data protection in the US prompted a preliminary order from the Irish authority, instructing Facebook to cease transferring data to the US using this alternative method as well.

In December, EU regulators proposed a replacement for the defunct “Privacy Shield” agreement, following extensive negotiations with the US. These efforts resulted in an executive order from President Joe Biden and US assurances of ensuring the safety of EU citizens’ data during transatlantic transfers.

The fine imposed on Meta coincides with the fifth anniversary of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is widely regarded as the global standard for privacy protection.

EU is going hard after businesses that violate its privacy and data laws
Meta intends to challenge both the decision and the record-breaking $1.3 billion fine, marking it as the most substantial penalty ever imposed for infringing upon the GDPR privacy law.

Also read: Google loses appeal against record EU antitrust fine, to pay 4.125 billion Euros

“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,” read a joint statement by Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, and Jennifer Newstead, chief legal officer at the company.

The tech giant has cautioned that if it is compelled to cease employing standard contractual clauses (SCCs) without a viable alternative arrangement for data transfer, it may be compelled to shut down prominent services like Facebook and Instagram in Europe.

Since May 2018, EU regulators have had the authority to impose fines of up to 4 per cent of a company’s annual revenue for severe violations. Overnight, the Irish watchdog became the leading privacy regulator for major tech companies with an EU presence, including Meta and Apple.

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from EU slaps Meta with a record-breaking fine of $1.3 billion for exporting European data to US

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