Facebook given six weeks to respond to EU-US data transfer order

24 May 2021

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Following a High Court ruling, the tech giant has been given time to respond to an order that could see transatlantic data flows blocked.

Facebook has been given six weeks to respond to a High Court ruling that could ultimately ban its ability to transfer data between Europe and the US.

Earlier this month, Facebook lost its attempt in court to block an investigation by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) into these data transfers.

The ruling on 14 May allows the DPC to continue its probe into transatlantic data transfers on foot of another ruling last year from the Court of Justice of the European Union that invalidated the mechanism for EU-US transfers.

The DPC, which has oversight of Facebook in Europe under GDPR, issued a provisional order last August telling Facebook to cease these data transfers.

The whole affair is rooted in cases taken by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over the protection of EU citizens’ data when that data is sent to the US and whether it is at risk of mass surveillance by the US. Schrems wants clear legal protections put in place for Europeans to prevent this happening.

Now after the Irish High Court ruling, the way has been cleared for the DPC to continue its probe. Facebook has been given six weeks to respond with submissions to the regulator.

Data transfers between Europe and the US are still currently in place for the time being. Facebook has said that any ban on transatlantic data flows would be “devastating” to its business and cause “irreversible” damage.

In an affidavit to the High Court last year, a few weeks after the DPC’s provisional order, Facebook warned that it could cease European operations if such a data transfer ban was introduced.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin