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December 5, 2023

Meta Faces €550M Legal Challenge in Spain Over GDPR Violations

Hold onto your hats as Meta, the tech behemoth finds itself in the ring for a high-stakes legal brawl in Spain

In a formidable legal showdown, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is grappling with a massive €550 million lawsuit in Spain. The Association of Newspaper Owners (AMI), representing over 80 media outlets including El País, ABC, and La Vanguardia, is wielding the legal sword, alleging Meta's prolonged violation of European Union data protection rules. This breach not only questions the adtech giant's data processing practices but also asserts a breach of competition regulations, demanding substantial financial compensation.

AMI contends that Meta's cavalier approach to EU data protection legislation, specifically the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), amounts to "systematic and massive non-compliance." They argue that Meta consistently bypassed the requirement for user consent in data processing for advertising profiling, creating what they term an "illegitimately obtained competitive advantage."

The lawsuit doesn't mince words, asserting that 100% of Meta's regional revenue was unlawfully acquired, marking a pivotal moment in the mounting scrutiny over data practices by tech giants.

This legal onslaught follows a previous fine of €390 million imposed on Meta earlier this year, confirming a breach of GDPR. The GDPR decision, currently under appeal by Meta, has paved the way for private privacy litigations. AMI's challenge scrutinizes Meta's ad processing activities from May 2018, when GDPR came into force, to the end of July last year, leaving the door open for potential extensions based on Meta's persistent non-compliance.

Meta's response to GDPR violations has been dynamic, with two notable shifts in the legal basis for ad processing. Initially opting for a basis labeled "legitimate interests," Meta faced another challenge from Germany's competition authority. The ensuing decision by the CJEU invalidated this basis, prompting Meta to switch to claiming consent as the legal foundation for tracking-ads business in the EU.

However, Meta's latest attempt introduces a 'pay or okay' choice for users – pay for an ad-free experience or agree to being tracked. This move has sparked its own controversy, with privacy groups challenging the legality and fairness of this choice.

As Meta navigates this legal maelstrom, the outcome could reshape the intersection of data privacy, competition regulations, and the accountability of tech giants. The AMI lawsuit marks a watershed moment, underscoring the urgency for comprehensive data protection measures and ethical practices in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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