Max Schrems Foundation files corruption complaint against Irish privacy watchdog

Privacy activist Max Schrems’ noyb foundation has filed a corruption complaint against the Irish privacy regulator. The Data Protection Commissioner in the country is said to have engaged in ‘procedural extortion’ by asking noyb to step out of a lawsuit, according to the foundation.

Noyb has filed the complaint with the Austrian Bureau for Corruption Prosecution, the foundation writes. The noyb foundation is located in Austria. The complaint comes as a result of a disagreement between noyb and the Irish DPC about a case against Facebook. The regulator is investigating possible violations of the GDPR. The Irish authority acts as the main authority, but does so on behalf of several European privacy regulators. Recently, the DPC sent a draft to the other regulators with the intention to give Facebook a lower fine than many regulators want. Max Schrems’ foundation must be heard as a witness in that case.

The foundation recently published the DPC’s draft proposal on its own website. Noyb did this because it was dissatisfied with the low fine amount proposed by the DPC. The DPC then demanded that noyb remove the documents from his site. Noyb did not agree, because the Irish regulator would not have control over an Austrian foundation.

The DPC then demanded that noyb sign a non-disclosure agreement in which it stated that it would no longer comment on the documents. Without such an NDA, the regulator would not want to call noyb as a witness in the case. Noyb calls this ‘procedural extortion’. “Here, a supervisor is clearly asking for a ‘quid pro quo’ before it does its job. That falls under bribery in Austria,” says Schrems.

Schrems has therefore filed a complaint with the Wirtschafts- und Korruptionsstaatsanwaltschaft, the official Austrian anti-corruption watchdog. This happens in their own country, because noyb is an Austrian foundation as a ‘victim’. Based on the complaint, the WKStA can start an official investigation, but it is still too early to say whether that will actually happen.