Meta claims €405m Irish data fine is unlawful

The Irish arm of IT giant Meta has claimed before the High Court that a €405m fine imposed by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) for breaching the privacy rights of teenagers is unconstitutional.

he fine was issued last September by the DPC following an investigation it conducted into GDPR breaches.

In proceedings aimed at overturning the fine, Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd claims that certain sections of the 2018 Data Protection Act, the legislation which established the DPC, are unconstitutional.

Meta claims that the large fine imposed on it amounts to a criminal sanction and the administration of judicial powers by the DPC.

The DPC is not entitled to act in this manner because it breaches aspects of the Constitution that concern the administration of justice, Meta claims.

It also claims that the decision against it breaches both the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to a fair hearing.

The applicant, formerly known as Facebook Ireland, is a subsidiary of the US-based Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The Irish company is the controller and service provider for Meta’s platforms in the European region.

The case arises following the DPC inquiry into Meta’s historic processing of the data of Instagram users between the ages of 13 and 17 years between May 2018 and September 2020.

The probe concerned the automatic publication of teenage Instagram user’s mobile phone numbers and email addresses under default settings on the app’s “business account” service.

This default setting has since been changed by Instagram.

The DPC is the lead supervisory authority regarding cross-border processing activities carried out by Meta.

Meta claims the DPC’s decision is unlawful, disproportionate and impaired by errors of law.

It also submits that the DPC took irrelevant decisions into account when arriving at its decision, and were made in breach of fair procedures and rights to a fair hearing.

In its action against the DPC, Ireland and the Attorney General, Meta seeks an order quashing the decision of September 2 to issue 10 administrative fines totalling €405m against the company.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday.

The judge, on an ex-parte (one side only represented) basis, granted permission to bring the action and adjourned it to next month.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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