This fine is a clear sign. The Irish data protection authority has fined tech giant Meta 1.2 billion euros for violating EU rules for years when transferring data to the US. Never before has a violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) cost a company so much.
Facebook has been transferring data to the USA for over ten years without complying with EU regulations. Nevertheless, those responsible in the USA will understand the signal. Europe is serious about data protection. With the GDPR, the EU also has an instrument to punish violations in a way that hurts even the big players in the industry.
The US will now finally have to think about how it handles data. The cleanest solution would be for Joe Biden’s administration to change US laws to give Europeans the same rights as US citizens. Their data may only be spied on if a judge orders it. So far, the US has not been willing to do this.
However, it is not without a certain irony that Europe’s big moment comes from the initiative of a private individual. Austrian activist Max Schrems got the fine rolling with his complaints, just as he had previously brought down transatlantic arrangements for data transfers with lawsuits. Before European politicians display complacency on this day, they should ask themselves whether they have taken the admittedly unwieldy issue of data protection seriously enough. It is time to do so.