Judicial review of Facebook PRISM case to be heard this week

A judicial review brought by an Austrian student over the transfer of personal information by Facebook is to go ahead in the High Court in Dublin this week.

Judicial review of Facebook PRISM case to be heard this week

Max Schrems of the Europe-V-Facebook.org group launched the action last year over what he claimed was the Data Protection Commissioner’s “refusal” to investigate Facebook over its involvement in the Prism national security electronic surveillance program operated by the National Security Agency in the US.

Mr Schrems, who is in his mid-20s and resident in Vienna, first filed a complaint against Facebook Ireland with the Data Protection Commissioner because of what he claimed was illegal data export to the US.

He claimed that the law requires the “adequate protection” of data that goes abroad and that Facebook was forwarding data to the US where it is then used for the Prism program.

The commissioner declined to pursue an investigation under a legal provision of Section 10 of the Data Protection Acts. This permits the commissioner to form an opinion that a matter does not require a formal investigation by this office.

A spokesperson for the commissioner said: “At the judicial review hearing in the High Court on April 29 next, lawyers acting on behalf of the Data Protection Commissioner will defend the position he has taken that, as he is legally bound by the European Commission’s ‘Safe Harbour’ decision, the basis for a formal investigation by him do not exist in relation to access by US authorities to personal data transferred from Facebook-Ireland to Facebook Inc.”

Mr Schrems has argued that other data protection commissioners in Europe and EU institutions had followed its line of argument over the transfer of information by Facebook.

He will argue that if the Irish commissioner was required to investigate Facebook’s involvement in Prism, it could lead to a suspension of Facebook’s data flow to the US.

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