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Facebook to be probed by Irish data watchdog

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 20 October 2015

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The High Court in Dublin has recently heard the intentions of the Data Protection Commissioner, which is to investigate Facebook’s data transfers to the US.

Previously, she argued that the actions of the social network, brought to light following a complaint by a privacy activist stating that they aid US spy agencies with mass surveillance, was not under her jurisdiction.

However, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice which stated that the Safe Harbour trade pact, making it easy for data to be transferred between the USA and EU, was in fact invalid, the DPC has stated that she will carry out a quick investigation into Facebook’s actions.

This ruling gives her an obligation to investigate the allegations made by Max Schrems, who states that data held by Facebook is being widely snooped upon by the NSA as part of a programme called Prism. This, he said, was a breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Schrems also talks of the potential actions from the DCP stating that "Given my experience I doubt that what is today mainly a 'tech business protection authority' will wake up tomorrow and turn into real 'data protection authority' - but I guess we'll see soon."

The investigations are instigated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner as Facebook Europe’s headquarters are in Dublin.

Facebook have given comment highlighting that "Facebook is not and has never been part of any programme to give the US government direct access to our servers" and showing intention to co-operate with the DCP as much as they can. However they do make it clear that they would have liked to correct ‘inaccuracies’ during the Dublin proceedings but were not given the opportunity.

As this is an expressly stated quick investigation, there should not be a long wait before a decision has been reached which could affect the social giant’s future.

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