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Meta hit by £346m data fine as UK lawsuit approaches

Meta data
Image credit: Tada Images

Meta has been slapped with a €390m (£346m) fine by the Irish data regulator, less than a month after paying a £600m settlement in the US, as the tech giant braces for another data lawsuit in the UK at the end of January.

The Facebook owner was handed the £346m by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) for breaking EU data rules across its various social media platforms.

The DPC found Meta acted unlawfully in the way it asked for permission to collect personal data from users for advertising purposes.

The fine follows an agreement to pay £600m in December 2022 to settle a class action lawsuit in the US over the Cambridge Analytica data breach, news of which first broke in 2018.

The various data costs sets a bleak stage for Meta’s upcoming lawsuit in the UK, which is set to be held by the Competition Appeal Tribunal on 30 January.

The Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen v Meta Platforms, Inc. and Others case will see Meta take on up to 44 million UK Facebook users accusing the company of abusing its social media market dominance to unfairly collect consumers’ personal data.

The UK data case does not point directly to Cambridge Analytica, the British political consulting firm that collected Facebook user data to be used in targeting political advertising.

However, the dates covered by the claim (11 February 2016 – 31 December 2019) include the period in which the Cambridge Analytica data scandal took place.

Janis Wong, a researcher at The Alan Turing Institute told UKTN that “discussions surrounding Cambridge Analytica may come up” in the UK case.

Wong gave the example of “Meta’s terms and conditions that allow for such extensive data collection and sharing to take place”.

Wong also noted that the UK’s data case, compared to the one in the US, “focuses on the competition lens”. This means it will bring in “assessments such as whether there was an abuse of the company’s dominant position in the market which resulted in unfair terms, price, or other trading conditions”.

It comes at a torrid time for Meta, which has seen its market valuation plummet 60% in the last year amid the tech downturn.