EU regulators fined Meta a record $1.3 billion (€1.2 billion) and ordered it to stop transferring EU citizens’ data from Facebook to the US. This is reported by The Verge.
According to the EU courts, such data transfer exposes EU citizens to the danger of violating their private life. The decision was made by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). It said the current legal framework for data transfers to the US does not take into account the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Facebook users from the EU and violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The fine exceeds the previous EU record of €746 million levied on Amazon in 2021 for similar privacy breaches.
Transferring data to the US is critical for Meta’s vast ad-targeting operation, which relies on processing multiple streams of personal data from its users. Last year, Meta said it would be forced to consider shutting down Facebook and Instagram in the EU if it wasn’t able to send data back to the US; a warning EU politicians saw as an obvious threat.
Previously, these data transfers were protected by a transatlantic pact known as the Privacy Shield. But this framework was declared invalid in 2020 after the EU’s top court found that it did not protect data from being scraped by US surveillance programs. This ruling was given in response to a claim by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, whose legal battle against Facebook dates back to 2013 and the original Snowden revelations of US surveillance.
Although Meta has now been ordered to stop these data transfers, there are a number of caveats that benefit the US social media giant. First, the ruling only applies to data from Facebook, not other Meta companies like Instagram and WhatsApp. Second, there’s a five-month grace period before Meta has to stop future transfers, and a six-month deadline to stop holding current data in the US. Third, and most important, the EU and US are currently negotiating a new deal to transfer data that could be in place as early as this summer and as late as October.
Meta called the fine imposed unjustified and unnecessary. Here they say that the company is just one of thousands that use similar legal frameworks for data transfer.
“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,” wrote Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg and chief the company’s legal advisor Jennifer Newstead.
By the way, it was previously reported that Meta sees a possibility to bring AI-powered chatbots to billions of people. This was announced to investors by the CEO of the technological giant, Mark Zuckerberg. At the same time, he did not specify exactly how Meta will add generative AI to its applications. But he expects these tools to be valuable to everyone, from ordinary people to creators and businesses.