Daily Management Review

Facebook’s appeal to stop ECJ data case rejected in Irish Supreme Court


Facebook’s appeal to stop ECJ data case rejected in Irish Supreme Court
A legal suit aimed to stop referring a case related to the validity of EU-US data transfer channels to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Ireland. The case was filed by the social media company Facebook.
In October last year, the case was initially referred to the European court by the Irish High Court. The court then had said that the concerns of Data Protection Commissioner were "well founded" which questioned whether or not the data privacy rights of the European citizens were provided with adequate protections by US law. Among the first questions that were addressed by the Supreme Court was the authority of Facebook to file an appeal against such a referral by the High Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that while it was within its legal boundaries to allow an appeal to be made against a decision of the High Court – even if it were a referral to the ECJ, there are a number of significant limitations on the issues that it would be required to consider.
The Supreme Court could not hear an appeal against the decision to make a reference or against the terms of that reference, Chief Justice of Ireland, Frank Clarke had argued. However, it was open to the court to hear an appeal against facts found by the High Court.
He said that a direct appeal against the decision to refer to the ECJ was among some of the areas that were included in the Facebook appeal and hence the Supreme Court was not capable to deal with them.
Facebook's "characterisation of facts" rather than the finding of facts themselves was among the other areas which could be considered by the court. And in that case the court did not propose to overturn any of the findings of fact made by the High Court.
The decision of the Irish High Court to refer the case to the EU was made in relation to a case filed by the Data Protection Commissioner after complaints were made by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems.
His data privacy rights as an EU citizen were breached by Facebook by the social media company transferring his personal data to the US, he complained.
11 issues to the ECJ were referred to by Ms Justice Caroline Costello.
Those issues were important in terms of EU laws because they dealt with issues such as whether the finding of the Irish the High Court that there had been mass, indiscriminate processing of data by US government agencies were correct or not.
The High Court did not consider the 'Privacy Shield' decision according to which the use of certain EU-US data transfer channels was approved by the European Commission, Facebook said. The company said that it feared that a decision could be made at the ECJ on the basis of the views of the high Court relating to US law.
"We are grateful for the consideration of the Irish court and look ahead to the Court of Justice of the European Union to now decide on these complex questions. Standard Contract Clauses provide important safeguards to ensure that Europeans' data are protected once transferred overseas. SCCs have been designed and endorsed by the European Commission and are used by thousands of companies across Europe to do business," said a spokesperson for Facebook in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment.