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24th Mar 2019

US government allowed to plead in Facebook data case

  • "The United States has a significant and bona fide interest in the outcome of these proceedings", an Irish judge said (Photo: prameya)

The US government can take part in a case against Facebook on data transfer from Europe to the US, the Irish high court said on Tuesday (19 July).

The case was brought by Austrian activist Max Schrems. It was formally opened last October after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down an EU-US data protection agreement known as Safe Harbour.

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It will determine whether European internet users' data is sufficiently protected from US surveillance.

The court's decision will allow the US government to defend its legislation before the ECJ.

“The United States has a significant and bona fide interest in the outcome of these proceedings”, said high court judge Brian McGovern.

He explained that "the imposition of restrictions on the transfer of such data would have potentially considerable adverse effects on EU-US commerce and could affect US companies significantly”.

Schrems said in statement that the US participation in the lawsuit showed that he had "hit them from a relevant angle".

“The US can largely ignore the political critique on US mass surveillance, but it cannot ignore the economic relevance of EU-US data flows," he said.

The court's decision comes a week after the European Commission launched a new data protection agreement with the US called Privacy Shield.

The commission said the deal provides new guarantees that Europeans' privacy will be better protected.

But Schrems said it did not address concerns raised by the ECJ when it struck down Safe Harbour. 

The commission "knows it will sink sooner or later," he said about Privacy Shield.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

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