Irish privacy watchdog must pause investigation of Facebook’s EU data flows to US

The Irish privacy watchdog has to temporarily stop investigating the transfer of data from European citizens to the United States by the Irish court. This would give Facebook time to appeal the privacy watchdog’s decision.

It was previously revealed that the Irish privacy watchdog Data Protection Commission had ordered Facebook to stop using standard clauses to allow data transfers between the EU and the US. Facebook had already indicated that it would appeal this decision, because the company believes it could have far-reaching consequences for companies that depend on these standard clauses.

As part of the appeal process, Facebook took to the Irish High Court, according to Reuters, to temporarily pause the DPC’s investigation into Facebook. The Irish court ruled in favor of Facebook and ordered DPC to stop the investigation. It is not clear how long the investigation has been paused. With the pause of the investigation, Facebook is given time to appeal the DPC’s decision, according to the court.

Data privacy activist Max Schrems tells Reuters that Facebook claimed it needed more time for the investigation and that the social network felt the DPC judgment would be ‘unfair’. Only Facebook is mentioned in the judgment and the other companies that use the standard clauses are not included. That’s why Facebook went to the Irish High Court. Facebook says companies need “clear, global laws” that protect transatlantic data transfers “over time.”

Schrems has initiated multiple lawsuits around the data transfers in the past and was behind an earlier case in July that put an end to the Privacy Shield. According to the European Court of Justice, the standard clauses are not by definition in conflict with the GDPR, but the used interpretation of such a contract may be. For example, if there are not enough effective mechanisms to ensure that the data is sufficiently protected, then a standard contract could still be illegal.