Data Protection Commissioner welcomes Facebook judgment

Billy Hawkes notes court’s conformation he was obliged to respect EU agreement

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has welcomed the judgment in the Facebook case: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has welcomed the judgment in the Facebook case: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 21:44

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has welcomed today’s judgment in the case taken by an Austrian privacy campaigner in relation to Facebook.

The High Court referred questions raised in the case taken by Max Schrems of the Europe v Facebook group over the alleged mass transfer of personal data to US intelligence services to the European Court of Justice.

In a statement, the commissioner said he welcomed the judgment of Mr Justice Hogan.

“ The commissioner notes the court’s confirmation that, on the law as it presently stands, the commissioner is obliged to respect a finding made by the European Commission in July, 2000 to the effect that the so-called ‘Safe Harbour’ regime agreed between the EU and the US for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US complies with EU law.

“In that regard, the judgment notes that the commissioner had ‘demonstrated scrupulous steadfastness to the letter of the 1995 Directive and the 2000 decision’,” the commissioner said.

“The judgment also upholds the commissioner’s position that the undoubtedly serious issues raised by Mr Schrems’s complaint turn on wider issues of EU law.

“The court concluded that, on the law as it presently stands, it was not a matter for the commissioner to look behind the European Commission’s decision, or to commence his own formal investigation into Mr Schrems’s complaint. These findings are welcomed by the commissioner.”

Mr Hawkes said he acknowledged and accepted the court’s view that, “because the data privacy issues raised by the Snowden revelations are so serious, it is appropriate that the European Court of Justice should be asked to consider the critical issue of ‘whether the proper interpretation of the 1995 Directive and the 2000 Commission decision should be re-evaluated in light of the subsequent entry into force of Article 8 of the Charter’.”

He looked forward to participating in that process “in due course”.

Mr Schrems had argued that the commissioner wrongly refused to investigate whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claims that Dublin-based Facebook International had passed on its EU users’ data to the US National Security Agency as part of its Prism surveillance programme.