Big Tech companies have collectively been fined over $2bn (£1.6bn) so far this year for violating a number of rules and regulations. But new data shows this is a drop in the ocean for Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta, who were able to recover from these penalties in less than a week.
Six days and five hours’ worth of revenues is all it took for the tech giants to pay off $2.34bn (£1.85bn) in fines they have racked up in 2023, according to research from Proton, the company behind end-to-end encrypted email, cloud storage and VPN services.
When France handed Alphabet a €2m (£1.7m) fine in July, Google’s parent company had paid it off in four minutes – less time than it took to read the verdict.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta wins the prize for largest fine this year, after EU regulators demanded a $1.3bn (£1bn) penalty for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, based on their annual revenues, it only took just four days to pay off.
Proton’s research called for regulations to have more “teeth” and bigger fines.
Andy Yen, founder and chief executive of Proton, said it is “shocking” the fines are so huge but amount to just a “tiny proportion” of big tech earnings.
He told City A.M.: “Big Tech has clearly decided that a commercial strategy founded on invading user privacy and locking out competition is so profitable that billion dollar fines are simply an acceptable cost of doing business.
“And all the while competitors remain locked out of the marketplace, while consumers are left with a raw deal for violations of their right to privacy. Something needs to change to hold Big Tech accountable, because the current rules and regulations clearly aren’t doing the trick.”
Under current GDPR laws, only fines of up to 4 per cent of annual revenue are allowed. Based on 2022 revenue, Amazon could theoretically be fined a maximum of $20.6bn (£16.2bn).
However, Proton said Amazon earns $1bn every 17 hours, meaning it could pay a maximum fine off in just over two weeks.