Meta Fines Expose EU Regulators’ Differences and Highlight Fundamental Issues for Data Controllers

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Meta Ireland (Meta) has recently been issued with two fines by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) for breaches of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) relating to advertisements run on its Facebook and Instagram services. The decisions highlight some fundamental issues for all data controllers in respect of identifying the appropriate legal basis for their data processing operations and the need to be transparent about how personal data is used. The decisions also reveal some core differences in approach between the DPC, the Irish national privacy regulator in this case, and the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). It signals the likelihood of ongoing wrangling between the various European data regulators as they seek to interpret the decisions and as they are (inevitably) challenged through the courts.

The penalty imposed against Meta Ireland

The substantial fines of €210m (approximately $223m) with respect to Facebook and €180m (approximately $191m) with respect to Instagram reflect the consolidated turnover of the Meta group and the level of fines which, in the EDPB’s view, are required to be effective, proportionate and dissuasive in accordance with Article 83(1) of the GDPR. Meta now has 3 months to take corrective action and amend its privacy policies (including identifying an appropriate legal basis for processing) and its operations to bring its data processing in line with the GDPR.

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