If you’re prone to narcolepsy, don’t try reading the European Data Protection Commission report on Meta Platforms’ data transfers, which led to today’s $1.3 billion fine of the Facebook owner. The report is so dry it makes the Sahara look like a rainforest. That’s a pity because it’s dealing with something of significance to everyone in the world—the free availability of internet services across borders. The European regulator is fining Meta for transferring European user data to the U.S. and storing it on servers here. In the minds of the European data protection commissioner, Helen Dixon, these transfers “fail to guarantee a level of protection” promised by European law.
One reason for that failure, the report makes clear, is U.S. intelligence agencies’ practice of spying on citizens’ internet usage—both foreign and American. In other words, it seems that the Europeans have the same concerns about the U.S. mishandling their citizens’ data that the U.S. has about TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese government. The solution is broadly the same: keeping data siloed in the country of origin, although as we reported today, that isn’t working out too well for TikTok. Meta is now under orders to change how it handles European user data. An EU-U.S. government pact is in the works, which could make life easier for Meta. Even so, according to this Washington Post story, today’s decision is bad news for lots of companies that move data back and forth.