Do you like being followed everywhere you go, or having someone know all your sensitive information? That’s what it’s like to use the internet today. Tech companies collect more data than ever, and regulators are more than happy to hand down hefty fines when those firms abuse it.
Since the Eurozone’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in 2018, it’s levied seven of the eight biggest fines(Opens in a new window) against Big Tech firms including Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
In July 2021, Amazon was fined 746 million euros ($740 million now, but $865 million at the time(Opens in a new window))—the largest penalty given out by the GDPR to date. Meanwhile, Google has been fined on three separate occasions, to the tune of $199 million.
Meta properties including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook have been charged $685 million for various infractions, including Instagram’s recent $400 million fine for violating privacy regulations around the collection children’s data.
Those fines may seem large, but they’re a minuscule portion of each company’s revenue. This means data privacy regulations are simply the cost of doing business rather than deterrents.
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Amazon made $469 billion in 2021(Opens in a new window), so the $740 million fine was less than 1% of the company’s total global revenue. While Meta does not disclose Instagram’s exact revenue, Business of Apps(Opens in a new window) estimates the platform took in $47.6 billion in revenue during the 2021 fiscal year. Again, that’s less than 1% of its total revenue, though the GDPR allows for penalties to be as high as 4% of a company’s total revenue for the year before.
Even with Meta’s first-ever quarterly decline(Opens in a new window), the company still made $28.82 billion in Q2 2022. And Google made $256.7 billion in 2021(Opens in a new window). So none of these companies are being punished all that harshly for breaking laws that were put in place to keep them in check.
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