Facebook’s European operation is bracing itself for a raft of GDPR rulings – and massive fines – after its latest results reveal it has set aside €302m (£273m) to cover “regulatory compliance matters”.
The social media giant, whose European HQ is in Dublin, is currently the subject of ten separate GDPR investigations by the Irish Data Protection Commission, covering its main site as well as subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp.
However, the only fine it has received in Europe so far under GDPR was a €51,000 penalty in Germany in 2019 for failing to appoint a data protection officer. It was also fined £500,000 under the previous data protection legislation by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office for its part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But, even then, Facebook was not forced to admit liability.
The Irish DPC’s first big tech ruling is expected later this week, when the regulator will finally reveal its decision against Twitter which has been nearly a year in the making.
Facebook, insists the €302m relates to “amounts identified for administrative fines arising from various regulatory compliance matters principally under investigation by the relevant data protection supervisory authorities”.
The company’s latest accounts show its European revenue grew by €8.8bn last year, up from €25.5bn in 2018 to €34.3bn in 2019, while profits grew 33% from €361.3m in 2018 to €481.88m in 2019, according to the company’s accounts.
Facebook Ireland boss Gareth Lambe said: “Ireland is an important hub for global innovation, which we continue to grow and invest in through our international headquarters, small business support and community contributions.”
Last week, the US government and a coalition of 48 states and districts filed parallel lawsuits against Facebook in a major antitrust offensive case that could ultimately force its break-up.
One lawsuit brings together nearly every state in the US, a coalition led by New York attorney general Letitia James. The suit accuses Facebook of abusing its market power to quash smaller competitors.
James said in a statement: “For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users. We are taking action to stand up for the millions of consumers and many small businesses that have been harmed by Facebook’s illegal behaviour.
“Instead of competing on the merits, Facebook used its power to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and make billions by converting personal data into a cash cow.”
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