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Meta fined a record $1.3bn for EU data transfers to the US

Meta has been hit with a record $1.3bn fine for transferring the Facebook data of EU citizens to the US despite security risks. Is Mark Zuckerberg’s burgeoning social media enterprise already reaching last-chance saloon territory?

To summarise the current Meta situation in Gen Z terms, there’s only one phrase that springs to mind: ‘common L’.

Mark Zuckerberg’s burgeoning social media enterprise is looking more like a strange social experiment by the day. Just how badly can someone misread a room and continue to attract investment in the billions?

Beset by an odd vision, premature enthusiasm for VR, and failure to present a tangible product outside of showcases, Meta’s latest setback comes in the form of data privacy reparations – something the Facebook CEO is all too familiar with already.

A ruling by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, on behalf of Europe, has ordered Meta to stop transferring the Facebook data of EU citizens to the US.

A record $1.3bn fine is to be paid for failing to ‘address the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms’ of the social network’s European users (established under the GDPR protocol).

Warned last year that the EU data conduit would need to be cut, Meta claimed such a play would force it to shut down Facebook and Instagram. Failing to be moved by empty threats, EU politicians called Meta’s bluff.

‘Meta cannot just blackmail the EU into giving up its data protection standards,’ asserted policy-maker Axel Voss.

Assuming the position of blind-sighted victim, Facebook had in-fact cunningly hopped at the chance to transfer masses of user data a year prior while ignoring protocol.

A previous safety framework called the ‘Transatlantic Pact’ had been declared invalid in 2020, following revelations that US surveillance programs had still been circumventing protections and scraping data from overseas.

With the floodgates opened by a legal technicality, Facebook shunned any sense of fair play and resumed sending EU data to bulk out its commerce arm in the US.

We now know this was in lieu of grander ambitions to create Meta and the ultimate virtual marketplace built on targeted ads and user data – an aim which is now under threat.

Feeling the strain, Nick Clegg, Meta’s chief legal officer, has announced the company will be appealing the decision. Describing the fine as ‘unjustified and unnecessary,’ he warned of the harm that the order may cause to the ‘millions of people who use Facebook every day.’

Facebook aside, though, there are several caveats which benefit Meta. The ruling only applies to Facebook, meaning increased volumes of Instagram and WhatsApp data could be transferred to compensate for its hiatus.

In the immediate future, Facebook also has a five month ‘grace period’ before it has to legally stop transfers from the EU – which may not even be reached, should the EU and US successfully negotiate a new framework for the movement of user data this summer.

As we eluded at the start of the article, perhaps the most significant knock will be to Meta’s already waning reputation then.

The days of Facebook being a defining social media platform were long gone anyway, but Meta can’t buy a slice of positive PR before getting off the ground either.