Ireland asks Facebook to stop sending EU user data to the US


Ireland to Facebook: Please don’t send EU data to the US.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Irish Data Protection Commission has asked Facebook to halt transferring user data from the European Union to the US. A preliminary order was sent in late August, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Facebook confirmed the Irish DPC has begun an inquiry into its data transfers from the EU to the US.

The move follows a legal decision by the European Union in July that the data transfer standard between the EU and the US doesn’t sufficiently protect users’ privacy because the EU has stricter privacy laws than the US — and because the US government could be collecting EU citizens’ data under its surveillance laws. This is a major privacy concern for EU companies and residents.

The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield, which permitted companies to send EU citizens’ data to the US. Following this decision, Facebook has been “setting out our position on how to secure the long-term stability of international data transfers,” according to Nick Clegg, Facebook VP of global affairs and communications.

“A lack of safe, secure and legal international data transfers would damage the economy and hamper the growth of data-driven businesses in the EU, just as we seek a recovery from COVID-19,” Clegg said in a privacy statement Wednesday. He said it could mean tech companies, hospitals and universities in Europe cannot use US cloud providers or call centers outside of the EU. “The effects would reach beyond the business world, and could impact critical public services such as health and education.”

The Irish DPC declined to comment.

Read more: Facebook can see your web activity. Here’s how to stop it 

The EU court’s decision came after Austrian privacy activist Maximilian Schrems argued against the Privacy Shield in 2019, saying that his Facebook data was being transferred to the US where government surveillance programs could access it.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in July said he was “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

“Data flows are essential not just to tech companies, but to businesses of all sizes in every sector,” Ross said. “As our economies continue their post-COVID-19 recovery, it is critical that companies — including the 5,300-plus current Privacy Shield participants — be able to transfer data without interruption, consistent with the strong protections offered by Privacy Shield.”

Schrems also successfully challenged the Safe Harbor framework back in 2015.

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