Facebook furiously pumps brakes on Euro probe into transatlantic personal data slurping

Let's slow down the wheels of justice some more, eh, Zuck?

Facebook today appealed the Irish High Court’s decision to pass the web giant's legal battle with Max Schrems over privacy rights to the European Union’s top court.

At the heart of the long-running case is the question of whether or not Facebook is fulfilling its European privacy obligations when it transfers European citizens' personal information from the continent to computers in America – given that the US has less stringent data protection laws.

It all began in 2013, when Schrems made a complaint about Facebook’s mass data-slurping to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. Facebook has its European HQ in the nation.

Since then, the matter has bounced between the Irish High Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union, overturning the Safe Harbor agreement that allowed businesses to move data from the EU to the US in the process.

After that pact was scrapped, and its replacement Privacy Shield seemed shaky, many businesses – Facebook included – started relying on standard contractural clauses (SCCs) to transfer data across The Pond, and this then became the focus of the case.

Max Schrems

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Last year, the Irish High Court announced its intention to refer the case up to the Court of Justice of the European Union, and it published a detailed set of questions it wants the court’s opinion on earlier this month.

But despite these movements, it could take another two years for such a case to be heard in the European court. Facebook would like to push things back even further.

In a hearing today, the firm's lawyer Paul Gallagher revealed that Facebook was seeking a stay on the court’s referral to the CJEU to allow the Irish Supreme Court time to decide if it would hear an appeal.

“The ideal thing we would be looking for would be a stay pending a determination by the Supreme Court,” Reuters quoted him as saying. It added that Facebook would seek an accelerated referral to the Supreme Court, which could take days - rather than months.

Schrems has said previously that he expected Facebook to issue a series of appeals against the decisions, and lamented both the costs involved and the lack of hard deadlines within Irish law to stop delay tactics.

The firm is arguing that it is entitled to a stay in the referral because that is necessary for it to appeal, and that the other parties in the case will not suffer it Facebook is granted a stay.

However, observers have said that Irish case law - set by a 1983 verdict - is clear that a decision to refer a question to the CJEU can’t be appealed. That means it’s highly unlikely the appeal will be successful; rather the move appears to be an attempt to stall proceedings.

Facebook didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. ®

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