Irish regulator puts Facebook’s data policies back in the spotlight

A draft decision by Irish regulators on Thursday threatened to block Facebook and Instagram from transferring data about users from the European Union to the United States, the latest round in one year dispute over the protection of the data of European citizens from US espionage.

The Irish Data Protection Commission’s order stems from a court decision that said data from Facebook and Instagram users in Europe could not be moved to the United States because the services were subject to US laws granting surveillance agencies access to certain information about international users.

The decision, first reported by Politico, increases pressure on US and European negotiators to finalize a agreement, first announced in March, to allow companies to continue moving digital information across the Atlantic. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has said it may need to shut down services in Europe if it can’t easily carry data.

Meta has been at the center of the debate because it was the subject of a lawsuit that led to a 2020 decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest court of the European Union, that struck down a major data-sharing pact between the Union European and the United States. The court said the agreement, known as the Privacy Shield, was illegal due to its lack of privacy protections from US espionage.

The decision was an example of how governments around the world are increasingly setting rules and standards that govern how data can move around the world.

A blackout of Facebook and Instagram is considered in Europe unlikely. Data protection regulators in other European Union countries have one month to express objections to Ireland’s order. Meta can also appeal the sentence in court. The draft order introduced Thursday only applies to Facebook and Instagram, not other Meta services like WhatsApp.

The White House has been working to reach an agreement to keep the data moving. Without an agreement, the operations of thousands of companies, not just Internet companies like Meta, would be challenged.

President Biden announced a preliminary agreement with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in March, but the two sides have not reached a final agreement.

Since the 2020 court decision, Meta and dozens of other companies have used a legal mechanism known as “standard contractual clauses” to keep data in motion.

The draft order presented by the Irish authorities on Thursday said that such a mechanism was not sufficient to comply with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The decision focused only on Meta this time because the company was already the subject of an investigation into its data collection practices in Ireland.

Ireland is in charge of regulating Meta’s data practices in Europe because the company has its EU headquarters in Dublin.

Meta said he was confident a deal would be reached that would prevent any interruption to his services.

“This draft decision, which is subject to review by the European Data Protection Authorities, relates to an EU and US conflict of law law that is in the process of being resolved,” Meta said in a statement. . “We welcome the EU-US agreement. for a new legal framework that will enable the seamless transfer of data across borders, and we hope that this framework will allow us to keep families, communities and economies connected.”

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