Facebook data row: Privacy campaigner challenges US tech giants in Europe’s highest court

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The European Union’s highest court has been hearing a case that could have huge implications on laws surrounding how the data of people in Europe is shared with US companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as with the NSA and other security agencies.

Maximilian Schrems, a Facebook user and privacy activist from Austria, has seen his case against the Data Protection Commission in Ireland brought to the European Court of Justice, where he aims to prevent US companies and intelligence services from being able to access the private data of citizens in the EU.

The hearing, which has been dubbed ‘Europe vs Facebook’ seeks to highlight the concerns over abuses of privacy by the like of Facebook and the NSA.

As part of his case, which has been crowdfunded to the tune of almost EUR 60,000, Schrems argues that following revelations brought about by Edward Snowden, companies such as Facebook regularly ignore agreed policies on data protection and user privacy.

Schrems also called for the Safe Harbour deal, which allows for US companies and security services to freely collect data from European citizens, as long as they adhere to various terms regarding data storage, to be scrapped.

As it stands currently, the user data from people in Europe can be legally gathered by some of America’s largest corporations and stored in data centres in the States.

Schrems claims that companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, as well as other organisations that were part of the PRISM program that saw the NSA tap into the data of non US citizens gathered by US tech companies overseas, had flouted privacy laws.

He also argued that because many of these companies have operations in European countries that they should fall under the jurisdiction of European law.

Should the European Court of Justice rule in favour of Schrems then it could have wide implications for any US firm which handles the data of citizens in Europe. Other companies which could potentially be affected by this include Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter and Skype.

Source: WSJ

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3 Comments

  1. I think you should name Apple as well, Apple seems for tax reasons, to claim that its head office sits in Ireland.

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