Irish Supreme Court dismisses Facebook appeal to stop case over data protection

The Irish Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Facebook to stop a referral to the European Court of Justice about a EU-US data transfer.

The first named defendant, Facebook Ireland Limited launched the bid after an Irish High Court referred the case to the European court in October 2018.

The High Court found the data protection commissioner had “well founded” concerns about “mass indiscriminate processing” and whether US law provided adequate protection for EU users’ privacy.

The case initially arose after Austrian lawyer Max Schrems claimed that the transfer of his personal data by Facebook to the US breached his data privacy rights as an EU citizen.

The Schrems case was taken against Facebook Ireland as Facebook’s European headquarters are based in Dublin.

Facebook appealed against the referral, meaning the Supreme Court had to decide whether there is any actual right to appeal over a referral decision.

The five judge court ruled on Friday while the court can, with limitations, judge on an appeal of a High Court decision which includes a referral, it cannot judge on an appeal of the actual referral itself.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, said: “It seems to me that it is open to this Court to entertain an appeal against a decision of the High Court in circumstances where the High Court has made a reference to the CJEU.

“However, there are significant limitations on the issues which this Court can properly consider on such an appeal.

“I do not consider that this Court can entertain any appeal against the decision of the High Court to make a reference or against the terms of that reference.

“I am also satisfied that it is not appropriate for this Court to entertain an appeal which is directly concerned with the analysis of the High Court leading to a decision by that Court to the effect that it shared the concerns of the DPC.

“That analysis is inextricably linked with the decision to refer and is not a matter which can properly be pursued on appeal.”

Mr Schrems released a statement after the ruling, saying he was pleased by the judgment.

“Facebook likely again invested millions to stop this case from progressing,” he said.

“It is good to see that the Supreme Court has not followed Facebook’s arguments that were in total denial of all existing findings so far.

“We are now looking forward to the hearing at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg next month.”

The ECJ hearing will be held in Luxembourg on July 9.

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