Privacy Rights Campaigner Max Schrems claims the transfer of his personal data by Facebook from Europe to its US parent company is unlawful and in breach of his right to privacy under article 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Individuals in the European Union have a specific right to privacy under European law. Individuals in the US do not have the same protections. In the US personal data is subject to mass State surveillance which is a breach of European citizen’s rights. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner refused to investigate Mr. Schrems complaint, this was overturned by Court Order and the Data Protection Commissioner was directed to investigate Mr. Schrems’s complaint.

The complaint was then investigated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. A draft decision on this complaint was then issued by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who then issued High Court proceedings seeking to refer a number of questions to the European Court. The key question raised is whether standard contractual clauses approved by the EC to be used by parties when they are arranging for the transfer of personal data of individuals to other countries outside the EU provide sufficient protection for EU citizens.

Ten parties applied to be joined as amici curiae (parties who have an interest in the proceedings) to assist the High Court in relation to this case. The High Court ordered that the USA Business Software Alliance, Digital Europe and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre be joined as amici curiae on the basis that this will have significant economic and commercial consequences for companies and individuals. The USA BSA were joined as restrictions on transfer of data would have considerable adverse effects on US commerce. Business Software Alliance is a not for profit international trade association of global technology providers. EPIC is a public interest, not for profit organisation with expertise in privacy, freedom of information, and government surveillance and has appeared frequently in the US as amici curiae and before the European Court of Human Rights. EPIC is a member of the advisory panel of Mr. Schrems. Digital Europe is the principal representative body for Europe for the Digital Technology Industry and is a not for profit association. The US Government were also represented in the case.

The case was heard in the High Court in Dublin in March 2017 before Ms. Justice Costello for a number of weeks. Judgment has been reserved and will issue shortly.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, it has been provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Amorys Solicitors is a boutique commercial and private client law firm in Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland.
For further information and advice in relation to “Transfer of Personal Data- the Max Schrems and Facebook case”, please contact Deirdre Farrell, partner, Amorys Solicitors, telephone 01 213 5940 or your usual contact at Amorys.

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