Small victory for Austrian Facebook plaintiff

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Small victory for Austrian Facebook plaintiff
Max Schrems displays Facebook's logo with his smartphone. Photo: AFP

Austrian law graduate Max Schrems, who is suing Facebook for various rights violations, has won a victory in his fight at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


An adviser to the European Union's top court said on Wednesday that a deal facilitating the transfer of data between the United States and the EU is invalid, and individual data protection authorities can suspend data transfers to third countries.

"The Commission decision is invalid," said Advocate General Yves Bot, referring to the so-called safe harbor agreement enabling data transfers to the United States.

Schrems has argued that Europeans’ online data had been misused when Facebook allegedly cooperated with the US National Security Agency’s PRISM program.

Schrems argued that Facebook flouts privacy considerations in its pursuit of expansion and commercial success.

He also said that personal data processed by Facebook is unprotected because it is transferred to the US, where it is not treated properly.

“It is great to see that the advocate general has used this case to deliver a broad statement on data transfers to third countries and mass surveillance,” Schrems said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Facebook declined to comment on the advocate general’s opinion.

Schrems initially focused his privacy complaints against Facebook in Ireland, where the company has its non-American headquarters. But local courts there referred his case to the European Court of Justice, which now must decide whether the trans-Atlantic data-sharing rules are rigorous enough.



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