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Regulators in Ireland have fined Facebook’s parent company Meta about $275 million for breaking the European Union’s landmark data privacy law by failing to protect user information.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission had been investigating Meta since last year, following reports that names, phone numbers, and birthdates from half a billion Facebook users were published online.
The fine levied against Meta is just the latest in almost $1 billion in penalties that Irish regulators have brought against the company in the past year.
But it doesn’t exactly come as a shock, said Megan Gray, principal at GrayMatters, a law firm that advises companies on internet policy.
“It seems to be perennial news,” she said. “‘Oh, Facebook has another multi-million dollar fine for violating privacy?’ How many times have we seen that headline?”
A Meta spokesperson told Marketplace that the company has changed its systems to try to prevent bad actors from using phone numbers to scrape user data from Facebook.
While Irish regulators said they were imposing a range of corrective measures against Meta, Gray said officials have failed to specify what those measures actually are.
“That is a government that does not want us to question whether they are doing a good job with overseeing their mandate on privacy protection,” she said.
But Ireland’s decision to penalize Meta for its data breaches is worth noting, said Dan Ives, an analyst with investment firm Wedbush Securities. And the move could provide a template for others to do the same.
“Ultimately, it’s the tip of the iceberg for likely more fines coming out of Europe,” he said.
NYU Stern’s Anat Lechner said Meta will probably take action to try to prevent that, just as they have with recent fines levied against Instagram and WhatsApp, which are also owned by the company.
“I think they will most likely appeal the decision,” she said. “The fines are very high.”
Lechner added that Meta could try to argue that it’s not fully liable for the breach that led to this week’s fine.
A Meta spokesperson says the company is “reviewing the decision carefully.”
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