It’s finally happened: Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has been hit with a formal suspension order requiring it to stop exporting European Union user data to the US for processing.
The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) confirmed today that Meta has been fined €1.2 billion (close to $1.3BN) — which looks to be a record sum for a penalty under the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). (The prior record goes to Amazon which was stung for $887M for misusing customers data for ad targeting back in 2021.)
Meta’s sanction is for breaching conditions set out in the pan-EU regulation governing transfers of personal data to so called third countries (in this case the US) without ensuring adequate protections for people’s information.
European judges have previously found US surveillance programs to conflict with EU privacy rights.
In a press release announcing today’s decision the EDPB’s chair, Andrea Jelinek, said:
The EDPB found that Meta IE’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.
Meta has been contacted for comment on the suspension order. Back in April the adtech giant warned investors that around 10% of its global ad revenue would be at risk were an EU data flows suspension to be implemented.
Asked ahead of the decision what preparations it’s made for a possible suspension, Meta spokesman Matthew Pollard declined to provide “extra guidance”. Instead he pointed back to an earlier statement in which the company claimed the case relates to a “historic conflict of EU and US law” which it suggested is in the process of being resolved by EU and US lawmakers who are working on a new transatlantic data transfer arrangement.
However the rebooted transatlantic data framework Pollard referred to has yet to be adopted.
It’s also worth noting that while today’s fine and suspension order is limited to Facebook, Meta is far from the only company affected by the ongoing legal uncertainty attached to EU-US data transfers.
This story is developing — refresh for updates…