Monday 16 September 2019

US wants to be joined to Facebook privacy case here

Max Schrems
Max Schrems

Tim Healy

THE US government wants to be joined to legal proceedings here involving issues of huge significance for privacy rights of EU citizens arising from transfers of personal data to the US.

The Data Protection Commissioner has reached a preliminary view that there are "well-founded" claims the personal data privacy rights of EU citizens are being breached, it is claimed in Commercial Court proceedings.

It arises from the transfer of citizens' personal data to the US where it might be accessed and processed by US State agencies for national security purposes in a manner incompatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, it is claimed.

Commissioner Helen Dixon now wants the court to refer key issues for determination by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) before her office makes a final decision on the complaint by Austrian student Max Schrems alleging breach of his data protection rights by Facebook Ireland. It denies any breach of Irish or EU law. Mr Justice Brian McGovern yesterday agreed to fast-track the case and to hear, on June 27, the Commissioner's application for referral of issues to the CJEU for determination.

Those concern the validity of various European Commission decisions approving standard contractual clauses (SCCs) under which Facebook Ireland and others make data available to the US.

Michael Collins SC, for the Commissioner, said the case is of enormous urgency with huge potential impact for commercial trade and the rights of parties in relation to processing of their data.

Because no national court can decide the validity of the EC decisions on SCCs, the CJEU must determine that, he said.

The Commissioner believed the concerns were "well-founded" and was obliged to refer matters to the CJEU.

Paul Gallagher SC, for Facebook Ireland, said the case was "considerably more complicated" than outlined and raised very significant issues for his client which was assessing its position.

Eoin McCullough SC, for Mr Schrems, did not oppose the case being fast-tracked but queried whether another reference to the CJEU was necessary.

Eileen Barrington SC, for the US Government, said it would be applying to be joined as an amicus curiae (assistant to the court on legal issues) as the case has "potentially significant" implications for US authorities and companies and is of significant importance to the US.

Irish Independent

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