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Articles - Privacy - February 16, 2020

Europe’s privacy overhaul has led to $126 million in fines — but regulators are just getting started

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The European Union’s overhaul of data privacy regulation is estimated to have generated 114 million euros ($126 million) in fines since it was introduced almost two years ago.

Since its implementation in May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) led to over 160,000 data breach notifications across Europe, according to research from multinational law firm DLA Piper.

Ross McKean, a partner at DLA Piper specializing in cyber and data protection, said his firm’s findings showed “we’re still in the very early days” of enforcement. It’s been roughly 20 months since the EU’s new rules were introduced.

“It’s not a huge surprise that we’re seeing a slow start to fines, but there’s more to come,” McKean told CNBC in an interview.

The biggest fine under GDPR to date was a penalty dished out by the French data protection regulator. The CNIL fined Google 50 million euros last year for alleged infringements of GDPR. Those infringements were related to transparency and a lack of valid consent, rather than a data breach.

Under GDPR, a company can be fined either 20 million euros or up to 4% of their annual revenues, whichever is the greater amount. The stakes are considerably high for companies like Google and Facebook, which handle a huge amount of data and make billions of dollars every year.

Authorities have been looking into potential violations of the landmark EU law across the continent. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has multiple ongoing investigations into GDPR violations, probing a range of big tech companies from Facebook to Apple.

Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office last year announced notices of intent to impose fines on British Airways and Marriott International, collectively amounting to about £282 million, but DLA Piper points out that both penalties are yet to be finalized.

The regulator also fined Facebook £500,000 ($651,000) over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but that pertained to privacy violations that took place before GDPR was introduced.

Cambridge Analytica…

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