Wednesday

26th Jul 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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday.

Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

Lawmakers in Poland adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite warnings from the EU that the move could trigger a sanction procedure over the rule of law.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU and Turkey fail to defuse tensions
  2. European law will apply 'for years' in the UK, says EU judge
  3. US votes to sanction EU firms in Russia project
  4. Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown
  5. EU to give research tips on dual food quality
  6. Polish president's veto leaves uncertainties over next move
  7. EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto
  8. UK presses the Brexit pause button