Sunday

19th Nov 2017

EU judgement on Facebook to take over a year

  • Facebook allegedly allowed the US access to spy on its users (Photo: Franco Bouly)

Any EU-level judgement on a case filed against Facebook for its alleged involvement in helping the Americans snoop on millions of people is likely to take over a year.

A contact at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice on Friday (20 June) said the case, initially filed by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems with Ireland’s high court, could take up to 18 months.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“They [high court] have to refer it to us, which can take weeks to months and once we get it registered here it could take up to 18 months before we pass any judgement on it,” said the contact.

Ireland’s high court adjourned and referred the case to the EU court on Wednesday in what is described by some as a decisive moment for privacy rights and the fight against corporate involvement in US-led mass surveillance.

Parliament’s lead data protection legislator German Green Jan Philipp Albrecht called it "a major step for data protection rights".

The complaint against Facebook is rooted in classified documents released to the public last year by former US agent Edward Snowden.

Facebook, along with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, are said to have been involved in a top-secret US-led surveillance programme known as Prism.

Snowden’s exposures indicate the US spy hub, the National Security Agency (NSA), had paid the companies millions to help cover costs to run the global snooping operation.

Americans firms are supposed to follow EU laws whenever the personal data of EU citizens is transferred to the US under a so-called ‘adequacy decision’ arising from a 14-year old EU-US data pact known as Safe Harbour.

Schrems, for his part, had requested Ireland’s data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes to investigate Facebook over claims it violated the pact by collaborating with the Americans on Prism.

The company’s European headquarters is based in Dublin, which forwards all data on its international customers to the US.

Hawkes refused to launch a probe, noting he is bound by the European Commission’s findings in 2000, which described the US data protection regime as “adequate and effective”.

Schrems disagreed and then took the case to the Ireland’s high court.

Indications from the high court suggest the judges in Luxembourg will have to determine whether the European Commission’s Safe Harbour would still bind national authorities.

Once an ECJ verdict is reached, the case will then go back to the high court in Ireland.

The Irish court would then deal with the matter as it sees fit using the interpretation of the EU law the court had just delivered.

“Any questions of the consequences, so any order for Facebook to do or not do something and any fines or punishment for not following those orders is entirely a matter for the national courts,” said a second contact at the Luxembourg EU arbiter.

The European Commission, for its part, admitted to deficiencies in the data exchange pact.

“As a result of a lack of transparency and enforcement on the US side, some companies do not, in practice, comply with the scheme,” said EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding earlier this year.

The Brussels-executive stopped short of scrapping the pact and instead issued a series of recommendations on what the Americans need to do stick to their side of the agreement.

MEPs want to scrap US data agreements

Frustrated MEPs want the EU to scrap data protection agreements with the US as they mount pressure on the member states to start negotiations on the EU data protection reforms.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

EU Commission to target fake news

Mariya Gabriel, the EU digital economy commissioner, announces expert panel and says fake news can be tackled if people are given credible and diverse information.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse