US to join Irish Facebook case

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The United States is one of a handful of organizations that successfully petitioned the Irish High Court to join a privacy case involving Facebook.

Irish Justice Brian J. McGovern ruled the U.S. will be able to present evidence as an amicus curiae in the continuing legal battle between the social media network and Max Schrems.

{mosads}Schrems alleges that Facebook transferred his data to the United States — something that became unlawful when Schrems won a similar case last year. In the earlier suit, European Union courts ruled that Facebook could not meet European privacy standards if data were to be stored in the U.S. so long as the nation was engaged in bulk surveillance. 

Last year’s ruling meant the U.S. no longer qualified for the EU’s Safe Harbor laws, which permitted businesses to shepherd EU citizens’ data into U.S. servers.  

The U.S. and EU later brokered a work-around known as the Privacy Shield. But in the interim Schrems filed his second case. The Irish High Court may now refer the Facebook matter back to the EU Court of Justice.

The U.S. was one of a host of organizations that applied to be amicus curiae. Others granted permission to join in the proceedings include privacy watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Centre, the trade group Business Software Alliance and the European alliance of internet companies Digital Europe.

The Irish standards to be an amicus curiae require that a party show “a bona fide interest” and “not just [act] as a meddlesome busybody” and can also offer “a perspective which might not otherwise be placed before the court.”

McGovern saw the U.S.’s input as appropriate, as the case concerned its surveillance practices.

McGovern declined applications from the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as two Irish civil liberties groups, on the basis that their expertise overlapped with other groups whose applications were accepted. 


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