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High Court refers Facebook data case to Europe

The case taken by Austrian privacy lawyer Max Schrems is against Facebook’s transfer of personal data from Europe to the US.

Image: Niall Carson/AP

THE HIGH COURT has referred a case on the transfer of data by Facebook to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The case taken by Austrian privacy lawyer Max Schrems is against Facebook’s transfer of personal data from Europe to the US.

Schrems is joined in the case by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) against the social media giant.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Caroline Costello today said that the case is “unusual”.

However, she said she was entitled to refer the case to Europe if the DPC could prove “well-founded concerns” over the transfer of the data. She said that she agreed those concerns had been presented, but said the ruling was not an “adequacy analysis” of US surveillance.

She said that the establishment of the EU-US Privacy Shield mechanism did not invalidate the DPC concerns. Neither did Facebook’s use of so-called standard contractual clauses (SCCs) to transfer personal data from Europe to the US.

Neither the introduction of the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson mechanism nor the provisions of Article 4 of the SCC decisions eliminate the well-founded concerns raised by the DPC in relation to the adequacy of the protection afforded to EU data subjects whose personal date is wrongfully interfered with by the intelligence services of the United States once their personal data has been transferred for processing to the United States.

She referred the case to the ECJ for submissions from both sides.

Facebook had argued there is nothing wrong with the current system and that there is no need for a referral.

Schrems, whose complaints eventually led to the demise of Safe Harbour data laws, is a party to the proceedings alongside Facebook.

He argues that Ireland’s watchdog already has the power to stop data transfers from Facebook and should use it.

In a statement, Schrems said:

“I welcome the judgement by the Irish High Court. It is important that a neutral court outside of the US has summarised the facts on US surveillance in a judgement, after diving through more than 45.000 pages of documents in a five-week hearing.”

Comments on this article are closed due to legal proceedings. 

Read: Landmark case about Facebook’s transfer of personal data begins in Dublin

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