A massive data leak just cost Meta $275 million

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law hits Meta for the second time this year.
Close-up of mouse cursor hovering over Facebook website login page
Over 500 million users' personal info was leaked online last year. Deposit Photos

Yesterday, a security lapse from 2021 cost the Facebook’s parent company, Meta, approximately $275 million thanks to Irish regulators enforcing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law passed in 2018 meant to better safeguard European consumers’ privacy. Last April, hackers collected over 500 million of the social media users’ names, locations, and birth dates via a vast data scraping scheme, and then turned around to sell the information on an online hacking forum. This is a violation of the GDPR’s rule requiring companies so safeguard personal info.

The massive fee is only the latest in a string of heavy financial penalties levied against what was once the world’s most dominant social media site. As The New York Times reports, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission previously fined Meta $400 million in September for its “mistreatment of children’s data,” less than a year after the same authorities charged the company $235 million for various violations related to its messaging service, WhatsApp.

[Related: Meta lays off more than 11,000 employees.]

The EU’s GDPR law is far more restrictive than American legislation when it comes to citizens’ online data privacy. Currently, the US lacks a comprehensive federal data privacy law, although there have been recent pushes for similar regulation. EU law, however, allows for heavier fines that otherwise may not be enacted stateside. Because major tech companies such as Meta, Twitter, and Google all have their EU headquarters located in Ireland, Europe often turns to its Data Protection Commission for enforcement and penalties.

Last year, Facebook rebranded its parent company Meta as part of an attempt to pivot towards CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s goals of realizing his vision of a “metaverse.” Although it’s currently unknown if Meta will appeal this week’s verdict as it has for the previous two decisions, the newest headache comes within weeks of it laying off over 11,000 global employees in what CEO Mark Zuckerberg described as the “one of the worst downturns” in the company’s history. Meta’s stock has dropped precipitously in recent months, and reported a 50-percent decline in quarterly profits last month. “I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here. I know this is tough for everyone, and I’m especially sorry to those impacted,” Zuckerberg wrote in his letter announcing the decision.