Monday 23 September 2019

Facebook fails in bid to prevent data transfer case going to European court

Pleased: Max Schrems has welcomed the court judgment. Picture: Courtpix
Pleased: Max Schrems has welcomed the court judgment. Picture: Courtpix

Tim Healy

Facebook has lost its Supreme Court appeal in the so-called Max Schrems data case.

The social media giant wanted to stop a referral to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) about EU-US data transfer channels.

The referral was made by the High Court in proceedings by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) arising from complaints by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems.

Mr Schrems claimed the transfer of his personal data by Facebook to the US breached his data privacy rights as an EU citizen. The core issue the Supreme Court had to decide in Facebook's appeal was whether there is any actual right to appeal over a referral decision.

The Schrems case was taken against Facebook Ireland as Facebook's European headquarters is based in Dublin.

Facebook appealed against the referral, meaning the Supreme Court had to decide whether there is any actual right to appeal over a referral decision.

The five judge court ruled yesterday while the court can, with limitations, judge on an appeal of a High Court decision which includes a referral, it cannot judge on an appeal of the actual referral itself.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, said: "It seems to me that it is open to this court to entertain an appeal against a decision of the High Court in circumstances where the High Court has made a reference to the CJEU.

"However, there are significant limitations on the issues which this court can properly consider on such an appeal.

"I do not consider that this court can entertain any appeal against the decision of the High Court to make a reference or against the terms of that reference.

"I am also satisfied it is not appropriate for this court to entertain an appeal which is directly concerned with the analysis of the High Court leading to a decision by that court to the effect that it shared the concerns of the DPC. That analysis is inextricably linked with the decision to refer and is not a matter which can properly be pursued on appeal."

Mr Schrems opposed the appeal with his lawyers arguing Facebook had failed to identify an error by the High Court.

He released a statement after the ruling, saying he was pleased by the judgment.

"Facebook likely again invested millions to stop this case from progressing.

"It is good to see that the Supreme Court has not followed Facebook's arguments that were in total denial of all existing findings so far.

"We are now looking forward to the hearing at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg next month."

The ECJ hearing will be held in Luxembourg on July 9.

Irish Independent

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