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EU should punish Ireland over Facebook case – MEPs

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Max Schrems speaks during a Reuters interview in Vienna...Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems poses during a Reuters interview in Vienna, Austria, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner...I

Max Schrems speaks during a Reuters interview in Vienna...Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems poses during a Reuters interview in Vienna, Austria, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner...I

Max Schrems speaks during a Reuters interview in Vienna...Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems poses during a Reuters interview in Vienna, Austria, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner...I

Ireland should be punished for not taking Facebook to task on data protection, MEPs say.

They want the European Commission to discipline Ireland for what they believe was a mishandling of Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems’s case against the US social media giant last year.

Civil liberties MEPs expressed “disappointment” with Ireland’s data protection commission in a resolution voted through by a large majority on Tuesday.

They asked the Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Ireland for failing to “effectively” enforce the 2018 general data protection regulation (GDPR). Infringements can lead to court cases and hefty fines if they are not resolved.

The MEPs said Ireland’s data protection commission, which is led by Helen Dixon, should have tackled Facebook under the GDPR, rather than referring the case to the EU courts.

The EU’s top court ruled in favour of Mr Schrems last summer, saying, effectively, that personal data transfers to the US were illegal due to invasive US surveillance programmes.

In a non-binding resolution on Tuesday, the Parliament’s civil liberties committee also said Ireland’s data protection commission takes too long to decide on cases.

It follows criticism last week by France’s tech minister, who cast doubt on Ireland’s willingness to tackle a recent Facebook data breach that led to half a billion users’ phone numbers being leaked online.

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Cédric O, France’s secretary of state for digital transformation, hinted an inquiry into Facebook was long overdue and could lead to EU legislative changes if it doesn’t have teeth.

Last month MEPs expressed “great concern” about the role of the Irish data protection commission, saying that it “generally closes most cases with a settlement instead of a sanction”.

They urged the commission, headed by Helen Dixon, to “speed up” ongoing investigations into major cases “to show EU citizens that data protection is an enforceable right in the EU”.

Germany’s data protection chief, Ulrich Kelber, has also hit out at Ireland’s approach to regulating firms such as Facebook, saying it is too slow to see cases through.

Tuesday’s resolution has yet to be voted through by the entire Parliament.

It won a majority of 53 votes in favour to one against (with 12 abstentions).


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