Court to rule on Facebook data sharing after Schrems drops legal challenge against Irish regulator

by Joseph K. Clark

The Irish High Court will issue a judgment on a legal challenge by Facebook to overturn a draft decision by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner to suspend the company’s data-sharing with the US.

The news follows a last-minute agreement between the privacy campaigner Max Schrems and the data regulator, who were due to be in court today.

The judge, Justice Barniville, said that he planned to decide on the case “as soon as possible,” pending other issues.

Schrems drops

The court was due to hear a legal challenge by Schrems, an Austrian lawyer based in Vienna, against the Data Protection Commissioners’ (DCP) ‘s decision to issue the draft order against Facebook halting its data transfers to the US.

Schrems said that he was concerned that Helen Dixon’s draft decision against Facebook would lead to further delays and adversely affect the regulator’s investigation into his own complaints against Facebook.

He also claimed the DPC’s inquiry, which the regulator took of its “own volition,” would fail to thoroughly examine the legal grounds that Facebook relies on to transfer data from the EU to the US.

Schrems resolved his case against the DPC on 13 January following an exchange of letters agreeing how Schrems’s complaint would be addressed, avoiding the need for a hearing.

The privacy activist first filed a complaint to the DPC against Facebook in 2013, amended in 2015, which has yet to reach a resolution.

Schrems argues that the social media company breaches data protection law by exporting data on European citizens to the US. He claims that European data is subject to mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency with few legal safeguards to protect the privacy of EU citizens.

Facebook sues Irish data regulator.

Facebook began its own proceedings against the DPC in August 2020 after the regulator disclosed it had made a draft decision that Facebook Ireland should not transfer personal data out of the EU to its American parent Facebook Inc.

The DPC said Facebook’s data transfers failed to guarantee a level of protection to data subjects equivalent to those provided for in EU law.

The draft order followed a landmark judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union in July 2020, which struck out the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement.

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