Meta threatens to shut down Facebook, Instagram in Europe without data deal

The social media giant warned that it might 'be unable to offer' some its 'most significant products and services'

Social media giant Meta Platforms, Inc. has warned that it might be forced to pull "significant" services including Facebook and Instagram from availability in the European Union if the company is unable to continue transferring user data to the U.S., as overseas privacy regulations tighten.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File / Associated Press)

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The firm run by Mark Zuckerberg made the revelation in a recent filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that "If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on [Standard Contractual Clauses] or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations."

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Meta was previously able to transfer data from European users and process it on U.S. servers under a transatlantic agreement called Privacy Shield, but that agreement was invalidated by a European Union court in July 2020 and officials from the two governments have not yet hammered out a replacement. 

Meta

The logos of applications, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook belonging to the company Meta are displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo on February 03, 2022, in Paris, France. (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images) (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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In the meantime, Meta and other firms have been able to use Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) to continue data transfers, but the Irish Data Protection Commission preliminarily determined in August 2020 that Meta's use of SCCs might also need to be suspended. Meta says it expects a final decision from the regulator early this year.

Shutting down Meta's ability to transfer data threatens its lucrative ad business on its platforms, which the company relies on. The firm says it does not want to pull its services out of Europe, but asked for clear rules under which to operate as regulators on the continent continue squeeze the social media giant and other companies that rely on data for their operations.

Meta

The logo of Meta is pictured on a smartphone display on February 07, 2022, in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Florian Gaertner/Getty Images) (Photo Illustration by Florian Gaertner/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"We have absolutely no desire and no plans to withdraw from Europe, but the simple reality is that Meta, and many other businesses, organisations and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate global services," a Meta spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement. "Like other companies, we have followed European rules and rely on Standard Contractual Clauses, and appropriate data safeguards, to operate a global service."

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The spokesperson added, "Fundamentally, businesses need clear, global rules to protect transatlantic data flows over the long term, and like more than 70 other companies across a wide range of industries, we are closely monitoring the potential impact on our European operations as these developments progress."