Meta is facing a record fine from the EU for violating Europe’s privacy standards.
ARI SHAPIRO, host.
European regulators deal a major blow to Facebook owner Meta. Today, officials in Europe fined Meta a record $1.3 billion over the company’s data privacy practices. NPR’s tech reporter Bobby Allyn is here to discuss what this means for all of us who use Facebook and Instagram. Hey Bobby!
BOBBY ALLIN, BYLINE. Hey, come on!
SHAPIRO: Three billion units is a big number. What is the story behind it?
ALLIN: That’s certainly a big number. That’s a lot of money, even for a super-rich Meta. But the bigger picture story here is that this is really a window into tensions between Washington and Brussels over how and where data is collected by popular apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, right? all that data should be stored. European regulators say Meta is breaking EU laws by transferring the personal data of Europeans to the US, where the EU worries the data could be accessed by US national intelligence services. But if you ask Meta, they say there is simply no option to not send data to the US
SHAPIRO: Are we just talking about different privacy standards here?
ALLYN: Yes, that’s a big part of it. Europe, of course, has very strict data privacy laws, and the US has no national data privacy law. I spoke to a former Facebook executive who used to lead the company’s security team, and he told me that this is really more than just Meta, isn’t it? The fine and the order really came about because the Europeans are afraid, as I mentioned, that intelligence agencies like the NSA can collect data on Europeans, but almost every multinational company, Ari, has some data that they buy. USA: So if this happens in the courts, it could really affect a lot of companies. Anupam Chander is at Georgetown Law, and he told me that the fine and the order really show that European regulators simply don’t trust the American government. Meta may be the target today, but eventually it could affect many companies.
ANUPAM CHANDER. The meta just got caught in the crossfire. It could be any company, European or American, because European companies also transfer data to the United States because they all rely on American Internet and digital services.
SHAPIRO: How has the Meta responded to this?
ALLYN: Well, Meta is currently focused on trying to appeal this order and the fine. Meta said if this persists, they may have to pull their services out of the EU entirely. It’s obviously quite dramatic. Chander of the Georgetown lawyer said that stopping the transfer of data to the US would be an unlikely undertaking.
CHANDER: I really think it’s going to be very difficult for Facebook to actually achieve that. It took years for TikTok to localize data behind these firewalls in the US. This is going to be a huge effort.
SHAPIRO: And what does this mean for people in the US and Europe who use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other Meta platforms?
ALLIN: Right now, you know, because it’s happening in the courts of Europe, there shouldn’t be any service disruptions for Europeans, or really for anybody. But if this survives the challenge of the Meta, things could get really messy. I mean, if Meta were to pull all of their services, Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook and others, out of Europe, you can imagine how that would affect how we all share content, how we communicate and how we communicate with each other, especially with friends and fellows. family in Europe. It can get complicated very quickly, Ari.
SHAPIRO: NPR’s Bobby Allyn issued a record fine for Meta today. Thanks Bobby.
ALLIN: Thank you, Ari.
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