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Meta to face new fines after EU privacy ruling

PARIS (AFP) – Meta is expected to face another large fine after Europe’s data watchdog on Tuesday imposed binding decisions concerning the treatment of personal data by the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said that the rulings concerned Meta’s use of data for targeted advertising, but did not give details or recommend fines.

Authorities in Ireland, where Meta has its European headquarters, have a month to impose the ruling.

Previous interventions by the EDPS have led to large fines on tech platforms, including a EUR405-million fine on Instagram in September over a breach in the handling of children’s data. The latest case follows complaints by privacy campaigning group Noyb that Meta’s three apps fail to meet Europe’s strict rules on data protection.

Noyb said they flouted the landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018 by failing to give users the option of holding back their personal data and blocking targetted advertising. Facebook argues these are vital to its functioning.

“This is not the final decision and it is too early to speculate,” said a Meta spokesman, adding that European Union (EU) law left open a possibility for targeted ads.

In October 2021, the Irish Data Protection Authority recommended a fine of just EUR28 million to EUR36 million for lack of transparency.

But this was rejected as far too low by France’s CNIL (the National Commission for Technology and Freedoms) and other national watchdogs, who asked the EDPS to investigate the case.

Meta’s logo on a sign at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. PHOTO: AP