Facebook privacy case referred to European Court of Justice

A data transfer case with potentially huge ramifications for EU trade with the US has been referred to Europe's highest court.

It centres on whether personal information can be sent between the jurisdictions by companies like social networking site Facebook.

Austrian lawyer and campaigner Max Schrems has claimed his privacy rights as an EU citizen have been breached through the transfer of his data by Facebook Ireland to US parent company Facebook Inc. In the US it is subject to mass surveillance laws, Mr Schrems has said.

Facebook's European headquarters is in Ireland, bringing it within Irish legal jurisdiction.

The Republic's Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, took action at the High Court in Dublin, urging the transfer of the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

She has concerns about the impact on fundamental European rights of sharing of the information with US firms.

After a five-and-a-half-week hearing earlier this year, judge Ms Justice Caroline Costello said: "I therefore have decided to ask the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the validity of the SCC (standard contractual clauses) decisions."

The European judges, who interpret EU law, will now be asked to rule on European Commission decisions approving methods of sending information known as standard contractual clauses.

Max Schrems leaves the High Court in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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