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Facebook in the dock as Irish case on privacy reaches Europe

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Austrian citizen Max Schrems

Austrian citizen Max Schrems

Austrian citizen Max Schrems

The European Court Of Justice is set to begin adjudication tomorrow on a case that could have sweeping implications for some of Ireland’s largest multinational employers.

The case, referred to the ECJ by the Irish High Court, will decide whether big US tech companies can continue to transfer our personal information to the US, where privacy protections are weaker.

The case is the culmination of an action brought against Facebook in the Irish High Court by an Austrian student, Max Schrems. Mr Schrems argues that Facebook flouts privacy considerations in its pursuit of expansion and commercial success. He also says that personal data processed by Facebook is unprotected because it is transferred to the US, where it is not treated properly.

He made a complaint to the Irish data protection commissioner about this, who said that his office could not investigate because the issue was covered under an EU-US legal convention called Safe Harbour, which promises to protect EU citizens’ personal data.

Mr Schrems challenged this decision in the High Court, which referred it to the European Court Of Justice on a point of European law.

If successful, Mr Schrems’ case could see companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other tech giants located here forced into new arrangements on how European citizens’ data is processed by US divisions of their operations.

Mr Schrems’ case is crowd-funded with 2,000 donors raising €60,000. Irish participants include barristers Noel Travers and Paul O’Shea and the solicitors’ firm Ahern Rudden Solicitors.

Separately, the Irish government has joined a New York court case where US authorities are seeking to force Microsoft to reveal information held on its Irish data servers.

Online Editors


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