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Ireland's high court begins hearing Facebook's U.S. data transfers

Xinhua, February 8, 2017 Adjust font size:

A case of Facebook's transfers of European Union users' data to the United States was heared on Tuesday before the High Court in Dublin.

The High Court heard the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC), the country's data watchdog, had formed a provisional view about deficiencies concerning the rights of EU citizens to access remedies under U.S. law for any breach of their data protection rights currently enjoyed under the European Charter.

Justice Caroline Costello will hear evidence from a number of legal experts from the United States and Europe, according to local media reports.

The case stemmed from a complaint made in 2013 by Austrian law student Max Shrems alleging that Facebook's transfer of his personal data to the United States was unlawful.

Schrems had filed a complaint against Facebook Ireland Ltd with the IDPC as Ireland is where Facebook has its European headquarters. However, the IDPC rejected the complaint, saying there was no case to answer.

Schrems has campaigned against Facebook for privacy violation, including its violations of European privacy laws and alleged transfer of personal data to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the NSA's surveillance programs.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the IDPC said it is asking the High Court to make a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as to the validity of the "standard contractual clauses" (SCCs) mechanism under which at present personal data can be transferred from the EU to the United States.

"Because the SCCs mechanism is established under a decision of the European Commission, only the CJEU can make a ruling to the effect that the mechanism is invalid. Such a ruling cannot be made by the IDPC or by any national court," the IDPC said.

In October last year, the CJEU delivered a judgment in which it found that a legal mechanism allowing U.S. technology companies in Europe to move data back to the United States was invalid. Endit