Meta halts development of another major datacenter

Concept art of Meta's planned data center campus in Huntsville, Alabama
(Image credit: Meta)

Days after canceling a data center expansion in Denmark, Meta has announced that a raft of data centers set to be built across an Alabama campus have been delayed indefinitely.

In a statement provided to The Register, the company claimed that it remains committed to the US-based cloud storage project, but that it was looking at design alterations.

"In order to best serve our needs for the future, we have decided to change the design of a portion of our Huntsville data center, which will result in a temporary construction pause," a Meta spokesperson said.

Meta’s shifting priorities

“We remain committed to this community, our local stakeholders, and our supply chain partners,” the statement went on to say. “We will work closely with our stakeholders to transition this project as efficiently as possible."

The company’s Huntsville, Alabama data center campus was announced in 2018, expanded in June 2021, and is expected to create 300 jobs when, or if, it opens. 

Several outlets, including The Register, are currently reporting that Meta is likely moving away from projects of this kind to continue its relentless pursuit of AI and metaverse projects, including the consumer-targeted Horizon Worlds and the enterprise app Horizon Workrooms.

This is more than likely the case, but it’s possible that Meta is getting out of the data business while it still can.

As reported by The Click in March 2022, parents and guardians in Alabama filed a class-action lawsuit in January that claimed the company “illegally harvested, trafficked and stored” images of children, violating their right to privacy.

It also reported that in 2020, Facebook paid $650 million in order to settle a similar lawsuit in Illinois, first filed in 2015, which claimed the company’s facial recognition software violated user privacy according to the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. 

In November 2021, Meta announced that it was shutting down the facial recognition system. 

However, in February 2022, TechCrunch reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had filed another lawsuit claiming that Facebook’s use of the system violated state privacy law “to grow its empire and reap historic windfall profits”, storing “millions” of biometric identifiers in uploaded photos.

Although Meta has previously had a knack for brushing off settlements and fines, it may be looking to switch its focus to AI and the metaverse if it views sectors as carrying less risk. Meta, or Mark Zuckerberg at the very least, could also believe it has such a confident foothold in the metaverse that it can afford to make the change.

Meta evaded The Register’s line of questioning on this issue, but the latter has previously reported that shareholders are getting antsy about the company’s metaverse plans

As a result, It’s entirely possible that recent cutbacks in the data sector are both a cost-cutting drive and a defiant statement of intent.

Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.