A procedural ruling from the Irish Supreme Court this Friday could limit Facebook on its information sharing ability between the United States and Europe.
Here’s what you need to know:
In July, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling on data transfers. It was based on the understanding that Europeans have no real way to challenge government surveillance in the US.
In August, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) enforced the ruling in the form of a preliminary decision. The DPC has authority in this case because Facebook’s European HQ is located in Dublin.
The case moved forward this week when Ireland’s Supreme Court dismissed an argument from Facebook about it not having enough time to respond to the DPC’s decision.
If finalized, the decision could prohibit Facebook from sharing personal information about European users with servers in the United States.
Proponents are celebrating the ruling as one of many restrictions needed to curb the tech behemoth’s increasing power over society. Meanwhile, opponents fear it could disrupt trans-Atlantic data flows and harm the advertising industry.
“The preliminary order from the DPC is concerning as it could jeopardize data flows from Europe to the US for a wide range of companies,” argues Big Tech advocate Alexandre Roure. “Europe is unlikely to meet its digital aspirations and become a ‘world-class data hub’ if it can’t even connect with its main trading partners in the first place.”
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Ireland’s decision could affect several major tech companies subject to American surveillance laws. That includes email providers and cloud services. The decision is sure to impact Apple, Google, and Twitter – which all have HQs in Ireland. It could even require changes to US surveillance law to grant more legal rights to our European neighbors.
For Facebook, it would mean finding a new place to store information collected from European users.
Before the decision can take effect, however, the DPC needs to finalize it. It also needs to be sent to other EU privacy regulators for review. This process will take months, during which time we can expect continued appeals from Facebook.