Facebook wants a say in a crucial legal case that could help dictate the …

20 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Irish privacy regulator ordered to investigate Facebook data.

The Data Protection Commissioner has agreed to investigate a complaint by Austrian student Max Schrems alleging Facebook Ireland is making his personal data available via Facebook Inc to US intelligence agencies.DUBLIN: Ireland’s privacy regulator was ordered to investigate Facebook Inc’s transfers of European data to the United States following a legal challenge mounted by an Austrian law student against its initial refusal to do so.

PORTARLINGTON, Ireland: With an office above a grocery shop and a staff of just 50, Ireland’s data privacy authority makes an unlikely watchdog for hundreds of millions of European web users. The commissioner’s lawyers told Mr Justice Gerard Hogan the investigation would proceed arising from the recent decision of the European Court of Justice concerning the Safe Harbour arrangement relating to transfer of personal data. Mr Justice Hogan had referred issues concerning the validity of Safe Harbour to the ECJ and, following that court’s ruling, the matter was back before the High Court Tuesday.

Max Schrems, the Austrian legal student who challenged the agreement, had argued it did not properly protect Europeans’ data from access by spy agencies, in the wake of revelations of mass digital eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency. It is from an unlikely location – the small rural town of Portarlington, 90 kilometres (56 miles) from Dublin – that the watchdog coordinates its policing of the world’s giant tech multinationals. On the town’s Main Street, locals are quick to offer directions to the DPC’s modest offices, but few have paid much attention to the work that goes on behind its walls. When the DPC was set up in 1998, it would have been hard to foresee how Internet companies would come to dominate everyday life or how Ireland would become a European hub for the world’s tech giants. Mr Schrems was concerned the transfers of data are continuing and there was no guarantee, even if his complaint was upheld, the data would be returned, counsel said.

Last week an extra €1.1mil (RM5.29mil) was allocated to the DPC, bringing its 2016 budget to over €4.7mil (RM22.62mil), compared to €1.8mil (RM8.66mil) two years ago. Rossa Fanning, for Facebook Ireland, which denies any breach of Irish or EU law, said his client was not pursuing its application to be permitted make submissions on a range of legal issues given the fact the judicial review proceedings were effectively at an end. This year the DPC opened a second office, giving it a presence in Dublin close to “Silicon Docks” – the area where many of the tech giants are located in the capital. But with multinational investment a key component of the Irish economy, critics have accused the DPC of taking a lenient approach towards the companies. He added: “There’s a significant economic benefit to the country having these companies here and we’re more than happy to provide adequate first class regulation.” “The office proactively engages with industry, helping to shape how companies work with data, rather than simply watching for transgressions,” a DPC spokeswoman told AFP in an emailed statement.

There was a “mottled” legal landscape concerning the matters to be addressed by the commissioner but the sides had agreed it was unnecessary and possibly undesirable for him to express any further view on that. In his decision on costs, the judge said this was a case of “transcendent international importance” and involved possibly one of the most important decisions of the ECJ in recent years.

The commissioner’s office found it had no case to investigate as Safe Harbour, and its implementation, was solely a matter for the European Commission.

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