A case that could settle whether Facebook can continue to send EU citizens' data to the United States should be referred to the European Court of Justice, argued the Irish government Tuesday as deliberations began in the High Court in Dublin.
Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner brought the case to the court following a legal challenge by Austrian data privacy activist Max Schrems, who argued that the data commissioner should order Facebook to suspend the sending of data to the United States.
The Irish data commissioner wants the court to request an ECJ ruling on the validity of the EU-approved "standard contractual clauses" (SCCs) for transfer of data outside the European Union.
"Mr Schrems was concerned that, because his personal data was being transferred from FB to its US parent company Facebook Inc, his personal data was then being accessed unlawfully by US state security agencies," the commissioner said ahead of the hearing, which is set to run for three weeks.
A separate legal challenge by Schrems resulted in the European Commission ending its former Safe Harbour data protection framework in 2015 and replacing it with a new Privacy Shield one that includes the SCCs.
Schrems said he then reformulated his complaint in Ireland, where Facebook has its European headquarters, claiming that the new EU rules allow national governments to suspend data flows if the recipient is subject to surveillance laws that "violate the EU's fundamental rights to privacy."
In deciding whether to refer the case to the ECJ, the High Court is expected to focus on the issue of whether US surveillance laws violate EU citizens' privacy rights.