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Meta’s Irish subsidiaries take on data watchdog with €395m fine challenge

"Meta's Irish Subsidiaries Take Legal Action Against €395m Fine Imposed by Data Protection Commission"

Two Irish-based subsidiaries of Meta, the social media giant, have launched High Court challenges against a decision by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) to fine the companies over €395m. The fines were imposed for breaches by Facebook of GDPR, the EU regulation governing how information and personal data can be used, processed, and stored, and over the operation of Instagram services. Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd was fined €390m following the conclusion of two probes by the DPC into the operation of Meta’s delivery of its Facebook and Instagram services, while WhatsApp Ireland Ltd was fined €5.5m for breaches of GDPR. Meta Platforms Ireland claims that the Irish laws concerning data protection are invalid and unconstitutional and that certain sections of the GDPR are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and EU Charter. The company further claims that the DPC erred in law and allegedly acted outside of its powers when arriving at its decisions against it.

Meta Platforms Ireland seeks various orders from the High Court, including one quashing the DPC’s decision to fine it. The company claims that the DPC had regard to irrelevant information when arriving at its decisions against Meta and that it gave too much consideration to instructions made by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), which allegedly unlawfully instructed its Irish counterpart to increase the fines imposed on Meta. Meta also claims that the DPC acted outside of its powers by expanding its investigation beyond the scope of the complaints and had regard for material other than what it had gathered in the inquiry process. The decision was made in breach of the requirements of fair procedures, due process, and the right to a defence, it is claimed. There was a failure to provide Meta with adequate reasons for the decision, it is submitted.

Represented by Declan McGrath SC, Meta Platforms Ireland has brought proceedings against both the DPC as well as Ireland and the Attorney General. In his submissions to the court, Mr McGrath said that similar cases have been brought by his clients against the DPC before the Irish and European Courts. These proceedings may take some time to be determined and finalised, counsel said.

In both applications, Austrian data rights campaigner Max Schrems’ group NOYB and the European Centre for Digital Rights, which made the complaints with the DPC that resulted in the fines being imposed, have been added as a notice party. WhatsApp Ireland Ltd, whose ultimate parent is Meta, has challenged the DPC decision of January 12, 2023, to fine it €5.5m for breaches of GDPR. Brian Kennedy SC for WhatsApp said his client’s challenge has been brought on similar grounds to Meta’s.

The applications came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday. The judge, after considering submissions from Mr Kennedy and Mr McGrath, granted the companies permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring their challenges. The matter will come back before the court in June.

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