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Facebook privacy case to go to European Court of Justice

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

04 October 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the European Union’s highest court, has been asked to deal with a dispute between Facebook and Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.

An Irish High Court judge this week asked the ECJ to determine the validity of the European Commission’s approval of EU-US data transfer channels used by the social media giant and thousands of other companies.

Mr Schrems has long been campaigning for tougher privacy standards, and his efforts have already led to the EU’s top court to annul one accord enabling data transfers to the US. However, this new decision relates to contractual clauses that are used as an alternative to the banned methods.

EU law contains strong protections for the data privacy rights of its citizens, and Judge Caroline Costello said that citizens are entitled to “an equivalent high level of protection” when their data is shared outside the EU.

The concern in this case is that the data transfer channels used may give US government agencies access to the information of EU citizens, and subject that data to mass processing.

The case has the potential to affect the privacy rights of millions of EU citizens. Mr Shrems welcomed the case being referred to the ECJ, saying it posed a “major problem for Facebook.”

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