Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

EUR 1.2 billion on Facebook for violating citizens' privacy

  • Metic, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has been the one that has imposed the most fines on a company in the European Union for violating citizens’ data protection rules. In any case, this 1.2 billion penalty represents only 5% of Met’s profits in 2022, as Mark Zuckerberg’s company earned $23.200 million.

25 May 2023 - 07:50

The multinational Meta has been sanctioned with EUR 1.2 billion for non-compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation, announced on Monday by the Data Protection Committees of Ireland and Europe. It is the biggest fine ever imposed in the European Union on privacy.

In this case, Facebook has been the sanctioned company. The ruling says that Met, the company that owns Facebook, has not supported the information of European citizens from the field of US security agencies. Previously, for the same reason, Facebook and Instagram, owned by Met, and Whatsapp, have received a sanction of almost EUR 1.4 billion by adding all the fines received in the last year and a half.

On this occasion the amount of the fine was higher because Meta has breached the law for three years, knowing it. In July 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided that digital multinationals such as the Goal violated EU law by transferring personal information from European citizens to their servers in the US. Because that flood of information, once on Meta's servers in the United States, makes it available to U.S. government security agencies, where research on this data doesn't have the same legal guarantee.

Facebook has a period of five months to stop transferring user data between Europe and the US. Mark Zuckerberg, for his part, announces that he will appeal the decision and that in Europe they will not immediately suspend their services. At the end of 2021, US President Joe Biden and EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced the basis for an agreement. Subsequently, this hypothetical agreement has had several revisions that would wish to enter into force this year, but it is possible that the agreement itself is judicialized by the privacy protection groups. This possibility is maintained so that Facebook and the other companies affected do not have to transform their business and continue to do business with people’s personal information as before.

These dark practices of the multinationals came to light a decade ago, when Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency spies on the Internet the data of millions of citizens around the world. The question now is why only Facebook has been fined, with the same behavior that tech multinationals like WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, Amazon or Apple do not comply with the regulations.

Max Schrems in a 2016 photo / Wikipedia CC-BY-SA

10 years reporting practices on Facebook

The lawyer who has succeeded in getting the Data Protection Committee of Ireland (CPD) to sanction Metari this Monday is the 32-year-old Austrian Max Schrems. In an interview held in the newspaper El País in 2021, he explained when he began to worry and denounce the behavior of multinationals of information to abuse their power: “Many things that happen on the net, like analyzing your tastes, friends and ideas, happen without doing absolutely nothing. In my case, for example, I never wrote with my sexual orientation on Facebook, but nonetheless, seeing that many of my friends were homosexual, Facebook concluded that I am also homosexual."

The interview also highlighted: "To say you don't need privacy because you have nothing to hide is to say you don't need freedom of expression, because you have nothing to say. I've been studying Facebook for 10 years and promoting issues against it, and I still don't fully understand how it works. Therefore, we cannot think that an 18-year-old understands the consequences of using Facebook, it is absurd. No one reads the privacy conditions.”

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