Individual countries are increasingly trying to hold large social networks responsible not only for the shared content, but also for the data of their users. The fine imposed by the Irish Data Protection Commission on the operator of the communication application WhatsApp of 225 million euros, or about 5.7 billion kroner, is one of the highest penalties in this regard.
According to the Commission, WhatsApp violates European Union rules in how it treats data of users and other people in a non-transparent manner and how it is shared with other applications owned by Facebook.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Irish regulators agreed with Elon Musk, who at the start of the year criticized the new terms of WhatsApp and the fact that the app would share its users’ data with Facebook. Therefore, Musk recommended using the encrypted Signal app instead of WhatsApp.
The current decision of the Data Protection Commission is the largest fine ever imposed by the Irish Commission and the second highest fine under the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in 2018.
There is a simple reason for doing business with WhatsApp in Ireland – Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, is located in the European Union in Ireland, and the Irish regulator oversees the tech giant in Europe.
WhatsApp has already stated that it does not agree with the decision and plans to appeal. Similarly, at the end of July, the Commission fined US e-commerce giant Amazon 746 million euros for transmitting personal data in violation of its protection rules.
Big tech companies and social network operators face fines for misconduct in handling users’ personal data in other countries. Early in 2019, for example, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided to fine Facebook for violating privacy. The bureau then imposed a record $5 billion penalty on Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation began with the scandal of leaking personal data of Facebook users, which was used by Cambridge Analytica for the campaign of Donald Trump.
In 2019, Twitter also violated the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation. The company then discovered the data leak, but did not inform the user within 72 hours, which is in violation of the rules of the EU directive. Thus, the social network received a fine of 450 thousand euros. Even in this case, the fine was imposed in Ireland, where Twitter’s international headquarters are also based.
A few days ago, Russia also joined social networks, trying for several months to regulate large foreign technology companies and limit the power of social media. This time, the Russian courts have fined Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter a fine of 36 million rubles, which is just over ten million crowns. The penalty is that the operators of these networks do not store data on local users directly in Russia, as required by law.
Facebook, along with Google, was fined in Russia in May, when, according to Moscow, the companies did not remove content that Russia considers illegal. For example, Russian courts were alarmed by contributions that allegedly encouraged minors to join unaccredited protests in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Chinese TikTok has not avoided paying either. Earlier this year, the app faced several allegations of violating users’ privacy and collecting personal information without their consent, including information using facial recognition technology.
Then, according to the US state courts of Illinois, the app shared the data with third parties, some of which were based in China. Which means, in light of Chinese realities, also with the Chinese government. TikTok said he did not agree with the allegations, but eventually agreed to a cash settlement of $92 million.
The Netherlands also imposed the fine on the Chinese social network in July this year. The local protection authority stated that TikTok had violated the privacy of Dutch children by not providing the full privacy and data protection information in Dutch. So the company must pay a fine of 750 thousand euros. And as early as 2019, TikTok was fined $5.7 million for collecting data on children.
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