Does the recent mega-fine against Meta mean Ireland’s data protection chief, who is often criticized in some parts of Europe, is taking big tech enforcement to the forefront?
r is it just a minor setback for Meta, seen by Mark Zuckerberg as the cost of doing business here?
Even those who claim Helen Dixon made it too easy for Big Tech could concede that the sums are now adding up. In the last 18 months, Meta has now been fined €912m by the Irish regulator.
While this is still only about a month’s profit for the tech giant, it comes at a time when Mark Zuckerberg’s company is struggling. At a time when thousands of jobs around the world are being cut to save money, €900 million isn’t the petty cash it once could have been.
Overall, Ms Dixon’s office has now issued two of the three largest fines – both against meta firms – under the GDPR since the Data Protection Act came into force. Only Luxembourg’s 746 million euro fine for Amazon is comparable.
Despite this, the Irish office still has work to do to catch up with the $5 billion fine that US regulators have imposed on Meta.
And data protection penalties are still a fraction of other regulatory sanctions within the European judicial, administrative and political system. Google, for example, has been fined a total of €8 billion by the European Commission for competition-related violations in recent years.
So where does Ireland now stand in its reputation for regulating big tech?
Those close to Ms Dixon’s office will say that the spate of hefty fines now pouring out of her office was always a logical consequence. Officials there have argued for some time that criticism of the agency failed to appreciate the sometimes annoyingly long time administrative regulatory processes can take if they are to survive challenges from the tech giants’ unmatched legal resources. In other words, the mega penalties kept coming.
But it’s also possible that pressure from such relentless criticism – right down to senior European Commission officials – also played a part. The Irish government’s move to increase the number of commissioners from one to three was an admission that there was a trust problem in some parts of the European political system.
What can we expect now?
The DPC still has around 20 pending investigations and probes into big tech companies, from TikTok to Google to Meta (which remains the most-investigated company). It’s possible that the fines will soon be in the billions, rather than the hundreds of millions.
But even with the additional officers and the boost from the current fines, an enormous acceleration of the processes cannot be taken for granted.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/analysis-does-nearly-1bn-in-data-fines-mean-ireland-is-finally-on-top-of-regulating-big-tech-42179269.html Analysis: Does nearly €1bn in data fines mean Ireland is finally at the forefront of regulating big tech?