Sunday 11 December 2016

Tech companies remain bullish on effects of EU privacy ruling

Published 08/10/2015 | 02:30

Facebook was one of the tech companies that questioned the European Court's ruling
Facebook was one of the tech companies that questioned the European Court's ruling

Major technology companies are bullish about the impact of the European Court of Justice ruling that called into question the transfer of data between the EU and the US.

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The court found that allowing the authorities access to the content of electronic communications compromised the fundamental right to respect for private life.

But Airbnb, which employs hundreds of people in Dublin, said: "This ruling does not have a significant impact on us.

"Like other European companies, Airbnb relies on other safe and legal mechanisms for essential data transfers."

Computing giant Microsoft repeated the mantra.

"For Microsoft's customers, we believe the clear answer is that they can continue to transfer data by relying on additional steps and legal safeguards we have put in place," said a company statement.

And other high-tech firms chimed in with similar replies as they digested the impact of the ruling by the European Court of Justice.

Online file sharing firm Box said it "does not anticipate any impact based on the ruling by the European Court of Justice regarding the EU-US Safe Harbour Framework.

"In anticipation of the ruling, we've undertaken efforts to adhere to the alternative methods for meeting the adequate protection requirements."

The tech company view is that a literal reading of the European judgment simply means they have to provide a few boxes for customers to tick in order to proceed.

Like many legal commentators, many are interpreting the judgment as being simply one pertaining to a particular legal instrument, rather than something much bigger.

"Facebook, like many thousands of European companies, relies on a number of the methods prescribed by EU law to legally transfer data to the US from Europe, aside from Safe Harbour," said the world's biggest social networking company, which employs almost 1,000 people in Dublin.

"What is at issue is one of the mechanisms that European law provides to enable essential transatlantic data flows."

But some commentators think this is the equivalent of burying one's head in the sand.

"The [European] Commission will have to consider the surveillance elephant in the room soon," said privacy rights advocate Paul Bernal.

"If the US can do this, without control or redress, then whatever systems are in place, whatever systems are brought in to replace the now invalidated 'Safe Harbour', will similarly breach fundamental privacy rights.

"No new 'Safe Harbour', no individual arrangements for particular companies, no other sidestepping plans would seem to be possible. This, it must be clear, is a fundamental issue."

Irish Independent

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