Meta hit with €1.2B fine over data privacy rules

Kerem Gülen
May 22, 2023
Updated • May 22, 2023

On Monday, Meta received a record-breaking fine of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and was instructed to halt the transfer of data obtained from Facebook users in Europe to the United States, The New York Times reports. This landmark ruling against the social media giant stems from its infringement of European Union data protection regulations. The penalty, announced by Ireland's Data Protection Commission, carries significant weight as one of the most significant consequences to date since the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) five years ago. Regulatory authorities highlighted Meta's non-compliance with a 2020 verdict from the highest court of the European Union, which deemed that data transferred across the Atlantic lacked adequate protection against surveillance activities conducted by American intelligence agencies.

The verdict announced on Monday specifically targets Facebook and does not encompass other social media platforms under Meta's ownership, such as Instagram and WhatsApp. Meta has expressed its intention to challenge the ruling through the appeals process, emphasizing that there will be no immediate disruption to Facebook's operations within the European Union.

Prior to the implementation of data partitioning for Facebook users in Europe, several steps need to be undertaken. This includes the segregation of various data types, ranging from photos and friend connections to direct messages and information utilized for targeted advertising. Meta has been granted a five-month grace period to achieve compliance, and the initiation of an appeal is expected to trigger a lengthy legal procedure.

Negotiations underway

Efforts are underway between European Union and United States officials to negotiate a new data-sharing agreement. The proposed pact aims to provide Meta with updated legal safeguards, ensuring the continued transfer of user data between the United States and Europe. A preliminary agreement was announced in the previous year.

The EU's recent ruling serves as a testament to the evolving landscape of data regulations, which are increasingly impacting the once seamless cross-border flow of information. Companies now face mounting pressure to maintain data within the country where it is collected, driven by data protection laws, national security measures, and other regulatory frameworks. Previously, data could freely traverse global data centers without significant impediments.

Meta's charges stem from official American policies that grant authorization for the interception of foreign communications, including electronic mail. In 2020, Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist, successfully challenged the validity of the Privacy Shield agreement between the United States and the European Union, thereby prohibiting the transfer of data between the two regions for corporations like Facebook. The European Court of Justice ruled that the potential surveillance of European citizens by American entities was unconstitutional, leading to the invalidation of the agreement.

In response to the recent ruling, Max Schrems issued a statement on Monday stating that unless U.S. surveillance laws undergo significant reforms, Meta will need to undertake substantial restructuring of its systems. According to Mr. Schrems, a potential solution lies in the adoption of a "federated social network" model. Under this framework, the majority of personal data would remain within the European Union, with only "necessary" transfers taking place, such as when a European user sends a direct message to someone in the United States. This approach aims to strike a balance between data protection and essential data exchanges across borders.

Image source: Unsplash

Meta, in response to the Monday ruling, expressed its belief that it was being unfairly targeted for data-sharing practices that are commonly employed by numerous companies.

In a joint statement, Nick Clegg, Meta's President of Global Affairs, and Jennifer Newstead, the Chief Legal Officer, conveyed their perspective on the matter:

“Without the ability to transfer data across borders, the internet risks being carved up into national and regional silos, restricting the global economy and leaving citizens in different countries unable to access many of the shared services we have come to rely on.”

The ruling, which stands as a record fine under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), was widely anticipated. Meta's Chief Financial Officer, Susan Li, had previously informed investors that approximately 10 percent of the company's global advertising revenue was derived from ads targeted at Facebook users in European Union (EU) countries. In 2022, Meta reported revenue of nearly $117 billion.

Image source: Unsplash

Meta, along with other companies, is pinning its hopes on a new data agreement between the United States and the European Union, aimed at replacing the invalidated agreement of 2020. Last year, President Biden and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Union, outlined the framework of a deal in Brussels; however, the specific details are still being negotiated.

The ruling against Meta comes on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the GDPR. Despite being hailed as a leading data privacy law, many civil society organizations and privacy advocates argue that its potential has been undermined by a lack of robust enforcement.

Criticism has been particularly directed towards the section of the GDPR that assigns enforcement responsibilities to authorities in the country where a company's European Union headquarters are located. The focus has largely centered on Ireland, as it is home to regional offices of major tech companies including Meta, TikTok, Twitter, Apple, and Microsoft.

On Monday, Irish officials revealed that they had been overruled by a European Union board. In addition to the 1.2 billion euro fine, the board mandated that Meta must delete all customer data it had ever collected.

Meta has frequently faced enforcement actions under the GDPR. In January, the company was fined 390 million euros for compelling users to accept personalized advertising as a condition for using Facebook. In November, it received penalties totaling 265 million euros following a data breach. These cases highlight the regulatory actions taken against Meta in accordance with the GDPR.


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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

    1. E. Fromme said on September 29, 2023 at 1:32 pm

      EMRE ÇITAK posts are useless because they are fraught with inaccuracies and are irrelevant.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

    1. Howard Allan Pearce Jones said on October 1, 2023 at 4:28 am

      Rreedom of Association is one of our most important rights. Some people think it’s Freedom, but no, I say Rreedom is far more important. There are many STATE-MANDATED associations that save jobs, that’s right MANDATED. I can’t name any of them, but rest assured they are bad, because saving jobs are bad, and people having jobs leads to dictatorship!!! Anyone who disagrees is too radical for Ghacks maybe, because I’m not sure.

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

  9. sean conner said on September 27, 2023 at 6:21 am
  10. Sherry Grant said on September 29, 2023 at 7:47 pm

    What does this article about Musk/Tesla have to do with computing, devices, phones?
    More irelevant filler.

  11. Anonymous said on September 29, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    yeah sure… they are always the victims and it is only against them ????

    Believe them 100% and never question anything. This lawsuit sounds like the type you heard when people were eating batteries.

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