Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was fined a record-breaking sum of $1.3 billion by European Union regulators for unlawfully storing user information in the United States.
The massive penalty was announced in a news release issued by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) on May 22.
“The EDPB found that [Meta’s] infringement is very serious since it concerns transfers that are systematic, repetitive, and continuous. Facebook has millions of users in Europe, so the volume of personal data transferred is massive. The unprecedented fine is a strong signal to organisations that serious infringements have far-reaching consequences,” explained EDPB Chair Andrea Jelinek, per the news release.
The ruling also ordered the destruction of EU user data sent to U.S. servers within the next six months.
The previous record for the largest fine issued over alleged violations of EU data privacy laws belonged to Amazon for its $805.7 million fine in 2021, according to CNN.
Such record-breaking penalties highlight the legal precariousness surrounding the transfer of consumer data across international borders by global companies. At least in the United States, the matter is also a national security issue. For instance, the fear that Chinese-owned TikTok, another popular social media platform, might share user data with the Chinese government has sparked several nationwide campaigns to limit or ban the app’s use, The Dallas Express reported.
Still, Meta’s latest fine spells more trouble for the company. Meta has also recently been accused by the Federal Trade Commission of misleading parents about its Facebook messenger app for children, which failed to safeguard users’ privacy.
Also, as The Dallas Express reported, Meta paid upwards of $700 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed numerous user privacy violations in late April. Those affected include Facebook users in the United States between May 24, 2007, and December 22, 2022.
In Europe, tech companies like Meta have faced increasingly more regulatory scrutiny since 2020, when a court ruling canceled a data-sharing agreement between the United States. and the EU, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The ruling found that the data transfers exposed EU users to scrutiny by U.S. intelligence agencies under Section 702 of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without providing them with sufficient means to challenge such access.
Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, and the company’s chief legal officer, Jennifer Newstead, issued a statement in response to the ruling, qualifying it as “flawed, unjustified and [setting] a dangerous precedent for the countless other companies transferring data between the EU and the U.S.,” according to CNN.
Noting that policymakers are still deliberating the issue, the statement argued that transferring data “across borders is fundamental to how the global open internet works. Thousands of businesses and other organizations rely on the ability to transfer data between the EU and the US in order to operate and provide services that people use every day.”