An Irish watchdog has fined Facebook over £648m for mishandling user information, along with a suspension of data transfers to the US.

The fine, which beats the previous highest GDPR penalty of €746m imposed on Amazon, is expected to be confirmed soon. 

The ruling stems from a legal challenge by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems and concerns about protecting European users’ data from US intelligence agencies

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Facebook’s grace period for compliance and anticipated appeal may delay the suspension until autumn. 

Facebook’s owner, Meta, has expressed concerns suspending data transfers could impact its ability to offer key services in Europe. 

Critics argue a financial penalty alone will not fundamentally change Facebook’s data-reliant business model.

The Irish Data Protection Commission has already fined Meta nearly €1bn since September 2021. 

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Meta, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has faced fines for various breaches.

It included publishing details of over 500 million users and allowing teenagers to create Instagram accounts which exposed their personal information. 

However, any data transfer suspension could become irrelevant if a new agreement between the US and EU is implemented.

A Meta spokesperson said: “This case relates to a historic conflict of EU and US law, which is in the process of being resolved via the new EU-US Data Privacy Framework.

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“We welcome the progress that policymakers have made towards ensuring the continued transfer of data across borders and await the regulator’s final decision on this matter.”

Meta has been striving to shift its focus from social media to developing the Metaverse, a virtual reality program. 

Despite reporting better-than-expected first-quarter revenue of $28 billion, the company has faced challenges competing with TikTok, particularly among younger users. 

As part of a planned “year of efficiency,” Meta has conducted significant layoffs.

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