U.S. joins legal case over Facebook data transfers from EU

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By Larry Banks

On Tuesday, an Irish court ruled that the U.S. can join a case on the legality of cross-border data transfers, giving authorities the ability to defend surveillance laws in front of the European Union’s top court.

The U.S. had asked the Irish High Court to partake in the case taken by Austrian activist Max Schrems against the social media giant, Facebook – which has its European HQ in Dublin – concerning data transfers from the EU to the States.

The case, which seeks to determine whether personal privacy is protected from U.S. government surveillance, will be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union after a request was made by data protection authorities in Ireland during May.

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

“The imposition of restrictions on the transfer of such data would have potentially considerable adverse effects on EU-U.S. commerce and could affect U.S. companies significantly”.

The ruling allows authorities in the United States to provide legal opinion or even testimony in the case. Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed the scale of the U.S. surveillance three years ago, which caused outrage in Europe, and boosted mistrust of U.S. tech firms like Facebook, Microsoft and Google.

Schrems has launched a legal challenge to the 2013 Safe Harbour commercial data agreement, which resulted in it being replaced by a new framework this month.

“The fact that the U.S. government intervenes in this lawsuit, shows that we hit them from a relevant angle”, said Schrems in a statement.

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

SOURCE: Reuters.

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