Wednesday 26 April 2017

Facebook case lifts Data Protection Commissioner's legal bill to €900k

Privacy campaigner Max Schrems is in Dublin for the case which has been brought by the Data Protection Commissioner
Privacy campaigner Max Schrems is in Dublin for the case which has been brought by the Data Protection Commissioner

Gordon Deegan

Ongoing legal fees associated with a Facebook privacy case contributed to legal costs at the Data Protection Commissioner last year soaring to just under €900,000.

New figures provided by the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald show that the legal spend by the Office of Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon increased to €894,021.

Philip Lee Solicitors received the lion's share of the fees at €749,884.

The Dublin-based law firm has advised the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) since 2002 on a range of data protection compliance and enforcement issues while it also advises many clients in the private and public sector on data protection and privacy issues.

According to the written Dáil response to Fine Gael TD, John Deasy, Michael Collins received €64,544 in legal fees from the DPC along with Bryan S Murray receiving €40,602 and Catherine Donnelly receiving €38,991.

The spend of €849,021 is a 41pc increase on the €599,365 spend by the Data Protection Commissioner on legal and professional fees in 2015 and this followed a spend of €522,145 in 2014.

The Commissioner's total spend in 2015 was €2.96m.

The Max Schrems Facebook case is currently before the Commercial Court in Dublin and has potentially enormous implications for EU-US trade as well as the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of EU citizens.

The case, where the Data Commissioner is asking the court to refer to the EU's top court the question of whether certain contracts protect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is transferred outside Europe, is expected to significantly add to the Commissioner's costs this year with the associated legal costs of the action.

The legal clarity sought could see the case being referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) should the High Court approve.

Austrian privacy campaigner and lawyer Mr Schrems has also been joined to the proceedings by the commissioner and is in Dublin for the case, which started earlier this month and is expected to last three weeks.

Ms Dixon's office brought proceedings after making a draft finding in May last year that Mr Schrems had raised well-founded objections to whether the channels breached the data privacy rights of EU citizens.

Ms Dixon said that a legal remedy was not available in the US to EU citizens whose data was transferred to the US where it may be at risk of being accessed and processed by US state agencies for national security purposes.

Irish Independent

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