Meta fined a record $1,3 billion (€1,2 billion) by EU data regulators The company was ordered to stop transferring EU citizens' Facebook data to the U.S., Bloomberg and Politico reports .
EU courts believe such data transfers expose EU citizens to privacy violations — a complaint that dates back to 2013 and Edward Snowden's revelations about US mass surveillance programs.
The decision was made by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). The fine exceeds the previous EU record of 746 million euros imposed on Amazon in 2021 for similar privacy violations.
The data transfer to the US is vital to Meta's massive ad targeting business, which processes its users' personal data. Last year, Meta said it would consider shutting down Facebook and Instagram in the EU if it was unable to send data back to the US, a warning that EU politicians saw as an obvious threat.
"Meta cannot simply blackmail the EU into abandoning its data protection standards," EU MP Axel Voss responded to the news at the time. "Leaving the EU will be a loss for them."
Previously, these data transfers were protected by a transatlantic pact known as Privacy Shield. However, this framework was declared invalid in 2020 after the EU's top court found that it did not protect data from US surveillance programs. This decision was made in response to a claim by the Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, whose legal battle against Facebook dates back to 2013 and the initial Snowden revelations about US surveillance.
Although Meta has now been ordered to stop these data transfers, there is a five-month grace period before Meta stops future transfers, with a final deadline of 22 October. The EU and the US are however negotiating a new data transfer agreement that could be in place as early as this summer.
Despite the record fine, experts are skeptical that anything fundamental will change in Meta's privacy practices.
"A multi-billion euro fine is not going to trouble a company that makes many billions," Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the Irish Civil Liberties Council, told the Guardian this weekend.