Facebook loses court challenge

Facebook has been unsuccessful at the High Court in challenging an inquiry and the preliminary draft decision of the Data Protection Commission. The inquiry was initiated last year by the Commission which could lead to a ban on the transfer of personal data between Ireland and the United States. The Commission’s preliminary draft decision provides that Facebook should not transfer data to the US.

The Commission’s inquiry as a result of the EU court striking down the agreement allowing for personal data transfers between the United States and the European Union, known as Privacy Shield. That EU’s highest court found that data transfers to the United States were not secure enough, especially from US government potential interception.

Facebook sought to challenge both in inquiry and the preliminary draft decision in the Irish High Court. Mr Justice Barniville refused Facebook’s applications and held that both the inquiry and the preliminary draft decision were lawful.

Data transfers

Facebook has said that there would be devastating and irreversible consequences for its business, which relies on processing user data to serve targeted online ads.

This case is the latest in a number of court actions and complaints to the Commission by the Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems, against Facebook. Schrems was central to the Commission launching this inquiry and has stated that he hopeful that data transfers between the EU and the US will cease this summer. Schrems was joined as a notice party in the proceedings. He stressed that the Commission is obliged under the GDPR and the judgment of the EU court in the Privacy Shield case, to act speedily to cease the personal data transfers to the US.

Whilst this particular inquiry is focused on Facebook, it will have much wider ramifications for trans-Atlantic transfers of personal data. Ireland will be central to the likely future litigation, given that it is often the lead authority for data protection investigations related to technology companies since most have their European headquarters here.