Summits Yellow

Irish court refers Facebook EU-US data transfer case to Europe's top court

Tyrone Stewart

FacebookFacebook’s ongoing battle over whether it can share user data between its EU and US businesses will go on for little longer, after the Irish High Court referred the case to the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, for a decision.

The decision made by the European court, which could take more than a year to reach, will have implications for any companies – not just Facebook – that process data between their US and EU businesses.

The legal challenge relates to Facebook’s use of ‘Standard Contractual Contracts’ (SCCs), which it began using after the European Court put an end to the Safe Harbour data-sharing agreement between the EU and the US. The reason behind this was because the safety of Europeans’ data could not be guaranteed by US government agencies.

On the back of that ruling, Facebook still found continued to process data across the Atlantic, just now it is doing so via SCCs. The initial ruling was made following a drawn-out case brought to the courts by Austrian European privacy campaigner and lawyer Max Schrems.

Schrems would continue his fight following that decision and turn his attention to Facebook’s use of SCCs to send user data from its EU headquarters in Ireland back to its international headquarters in the US.

Ireland’s data protection commissioner agreed with Schrems’ argument over the legality of Facebook’s use of SCCs and, as such, has sought clarification from the European Court over its beliefs.