Facebook Must Stop Sending Personal Data From Europe To The U.S., Says Activist

Max Schrems, who helped nullify the Safe Harbor agreement that protected data transfer, claims Facebook has not complied with the ruling.

Facebook Must Stop Sending Personal Data From Europe To The U.S., Says Activist
[Photo: CHRISTIAN BRUNA/AFP/Getty Images]

U.S. tech companies, which have been facing increased scrutiny over data privacy in Europe, suffered another blow in October, when the Safe Harbor agreement that protected the transfer of user data from Europe to the U.S. was struck down. One of the architects of that ruling–Austrian privacy advocate Max Schrems, who filed the suit–has now flagged Facebook and asked that European data protection bodies halt the company’s transfer of personal data.


“We want to ensure that this very crucial judgement is also enforced in practice when it comes to the U.S. companies that are involved in U.S. mass surveillance,” Schrems wrote in a letter calling out Facebook for not acknowledging the nullified Safe Harbor agreement. “The court’s judgement was very clear in this respect.”

Schrems updated a complaint he had originally filed in 2013, in which he argued that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was granted access to European user data once it was transferred to the U.S.–a violation of data protection rights in the European Union. The new complaints, however, also concern agencies in Germany and Belgium, in addition to the Irish data protection commissioner addressed in his first letter. “My personal experience with the Irish DPC was rather mixed, which is why I felt involving more active DPAs make proper enforcement actions more likely,” he explained.

Schrem’s request is specific to Facebook, but the Safe Harbor agreement applied to many tech companies, including Apple and Google. The European Commission is allegedly in the processing of working out another Safe Harbor deal with the U.S., but the issue in question is the same one Schrems brings up–that intelligence agencies in the U.S. can view user data from the EU.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Facebook denied allowing the U.S. government into its servers but said it was “cooperating fully” with the investigation. “We have repeatedly explained that we are not and have never been part of any program to give the U.S. government direct access to our servers,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “Facebook uses the same mechanisms that thousands of others companies across the EU use to transfer data legally from the EU to the US, and to other countries around the world.”

[via The Guardian]

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.