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Meta Platforms Inc. Faces Record €1.2B EU Fine for Data Protection Failure

2023

Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, is facing a record €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) fine from the European Union for failing to protect users' personal information from American security services. The Irish Data Protection Commission, which oversees Facebook's operations in the EU, stated that the social network's data transfers to the US did not adequately safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of users.

In addition to the hefty fine, Meta has been given five months to halt any future transfer of personal data to the US and six months to cease the unlawful processing and storage of transferred EU data in the US. Despite the potential impact of the ban on data transfers, Meta's shares saw a 2.8% increase in New York.

This penalty is the latest development in an ongoing saga concerning data transfers between the EU and the US. In 2020, the EU's top court invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield pact, citing concerns about the safety of citizens' data on US servers. The decision affected not only Facebook but also thousands of other businesses that rely on transatlantic data flows for various purposes, including sales, marketing, and payroll processing.

While the court didn't strike down contractual clauses as an alternative data transfer tool, doubts about American data protection led to a preliminary order from the Irish authority, preventing Facebook from using this method as well.

To address the issue, EU regulators unveiled proposals in December to replace the previous Privacy Shield pact. Negotiations with the US resulted in an executive order by President Joe Biden and assurances to ensure the safety of EU citizens' data.

Despite the fine, Meta plans to appeal the Irish decision, stating it is flawed and unjustified. The company believes that the ban on data transfers could harm the millions of people who use Facebook daily. However, this appeal process could take months or even years.

The fines imposed on Meta coincide with the fifth anniversary of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which grants regulators the authority to levy significant penalties for serious violations. Meta's recent fines have made it the top offender on the list of the highest EU privacy penalties.

Privacy campaigner Max Schrems has been at the forefront of the fight against Facebook in Ireland, arguing that EU citizens' data is at risk once it reaches US servers. The controversy over data transfers has been ongoing since Edward Snowden exposed the extent of US agency surveillance in 2013.

While the fine is a substantial financial blow to Meta, it also highlights ongoing concerns about data protection and privacy issues in the EU and the US. The case underscores the importance of complying with data privacy regulations, especially as digital interactions become an integral part of daily life worldwide.

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