Facebook prepares to counter-attack legal eagles of Data Fortress Europe

14 Oct 2015

Facebook is getting ready to defend its handling of its European users' personal data

Just over a week after the European Court of Justice dealt a heavy blow to the ineffectual EU-US data transfer Safe Harbour agreement, social network Facebook is getting ready to fight back.

Last week, a case taken by Austrian law student Max Schrems – inspired originally by not-very-clever US tech executives making light of Europe’s data agreements with the US in front of a class of switched-on students – achieved a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that found that local privacy watchdogs can now check on resident US companies’ data protection measures.

The case originally began when Schrems decided to take on the then under-resourced Irish Data Protection Commissioner because Ireland was where Facebook had its European headquarters.

As a result of the ECJ finding, the Data Protection Commission must now examine Schrems’ complaint with all due diligence. The ECJ also found that if the transfer of Facebook user data from the EU to the US does not afford adequate levels of protection to people’s personal data it should be suspended.

The ECJ case is just one of five legal battlefronts Facebook is contending with in Europe. According to the Wall Street Journal, another court ruling is expected in Belgium as early as this week.

But Facebook isn’t going to take this one lying down and it is arguing that regulators could hurt its ability to protect users against hacking and fraud.

If Facebook loses the case in Belgium, the Belgian Privacy Commissioner has requested it pay fines of €250,000 per day.

In retaliation, Facebook has threatened to make Belgian Facebook users endure more privacy checks when logging into the website to guard against hacking.


Secure server image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years