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European Union fines Facebook $276 million for massive data breach

The fine stems from the discovery that, in spring 2021, a hacker published the phone numbers of more than 530 million Facebook users.

Facebook, Meta, Dólares

(Voz Media/ Canva)

Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) imposed a $276 million fine on Meta, parent company of Facebook, after a data breach in April 2021 exposed the personal information of more than 533 million users. According to The Wall Street Journal:

The fine stems from revelations in the spring of 2021 that a hacker had published the phone numbers of more than 530 million Facebook users. In response, Meta said the information came from a massive "scraping" of public profiles it said it discovered and stopped in 2019.

Millions of users' data leaked

An investigation launched in April 2021 exposed the leak of personal information, including names, Facebook IDs, phone numbers, locations, dates of birth, and email addresses from millions of users in more than 100 countries. The data was shared on a hacker website.

Meta said the data had been "mined" from Facebook using search functions designed to help people find their friends through importing contacts.

The platform was immediately urged to implement a series of measures to correct the situation. Meta stated that it "fully cooperated with the CPD investigation" and made changes to its systems.

Total fines to exceed $900 million

The DPC regulates tech giants such as Apple, Google, Twitter, TikTok and others. It currently has 40 open investigations into these companies, 13 of which involve Meta. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation gives the Irish regulator the power to impose fines of up to 4% of a company's global revenue.

The latest fine is just one of several that Europe has imposed on Meta and its subsidiaries over the past 15 months. In September, Instagram and WhatsApp faced penalties of hundreds of millions of dollars for mishandling the data of minors. A separate fine was given due to Meta's refusal to disclose how user data is actually used. Both fines were appealed.

The total fines imposed on Mark Zuckerberg's company amount to more than $900 million.