Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, has been slapped with a record-breaking fine of €1.2 billion by the European Union (EU) for violating data rules. The EU courts have ordered Meta to cease the transfer of Facebook user data of EU citizens to the United States. This ruling comes as a response to concerns raised by the EU about privacy breaches resulting from such data transfers, which were brought to light in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about US mass surveillance programs.
The ruling was issued by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), which stated that the existing legal framework for data transfers to the US failed to adequately address the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Facebook’s EU users. The fine imposed on Meta surpasses the previous EU record set in 2021 when Amazon was fined €746 million for similar privacy violations.
Meta’s Threat to Discontinue Services in the EU Raises Eyebrows
Last year, Meta hinted that it might consider discontinuing its Facebook and Instagram services in the EU if it was unable to transmit data to the US. European Union politicians viewed this as a blatant threat and expressed their disapproval. EU lawmaker Axel Voss stated that Meta cannot blackmail the EU into giving up its data protection standards, emphasizing that leaving the EU would be Meta’s loss.
Future Negotiations and Doubts about Privacy Practices
Currently, the EU and the US are engaged in negotiations for a new data transfer agreement, which could be implemented as early as this summer or as late as October. However, despite the substantial fine imposed on Meta, experts doubt that it will bring about significant changes to the company’s privacy practices. Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, believes that a billion-euro parking ticket is of little consequence to a company that earns much more through illegal practices.
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