Monday 26 September 2016

European tech sector body wants role in Irish legal case

Tim Healy

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Frank McGrath
Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Frank McGrath

A lobby group representing some of Europe's biggest technology companies is seeking to be joined in a case here over data protection rights relating to transfers of information to the US.

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DigitalEurope, which represents the digital technology industry in Europe, has asked the High Court that it be joined in an action initiated last week by Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon.

The Commissioner wants the court, if it shares her concerns about the validity of EU-US data transfers via channels now being used by Facebook and others, to refer key legal issues for determination by the Court of Justice of the EU.

Those issues relate to the validity under the EU Charter of data transfer channels, known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs) previously approved under European Commission decisions.

It follows her draft finding in May that Austrian lawyer Max Schrems had raised "well-founded" objections that data transfers by Facebook Ireland to its parent in the US breach his data privacy rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Mr Schrems brought a complaint to the Commissioner here because Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern has agreed to fast-track the Commisioner's case against Facebook Ireland and Mr Schrems in the Commercial Court, the big business division of the High Court.

He also made directions for filing of legal documents concerning the applications to be joined to it.

The case was mentioned before the court yesterday when Michael Cush SC said his client, Brussels based DigitalEurope, also wants to be joined to the action because of the important issues involved. Its membership includes 62 corporate members and 37 national trade associations, including some of Europe's largest IT, telecoms and consumer electronics companies.

The judge granted leave to bring the application, to be decided at a later date along with several similar applications. The case comes back before the court later this month.

Similar applications have also been brought by the Business Software Alliance, representing the interests of internet giants including Apple, Microsoft and Intel; the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC); the US Chamber of Commerce; Digital Rights Ireland; and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a California based civil liberties group advocating for international digital privacy.

Irish Independent

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