On October 3, 2017, the Irish High Court announced that it will make a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on the validity of the Standard Contractual Clauses, which allow companies in the European Economic Area (EEA) to transfer personal data outside of the EEA. In doing so, the Irish High Court acknowledged that, “there are well founded grounds for believing that the [Standard Contractual Clauses] are invalid,” but clarified that this was a question of EU law for the CJEU to decide.
What happened in the case?
Maximillian Schrems (an Austrian privacy campaigner who, in 2015, led a case that struck down the EU-US Privacy Shield’s forerunner, Safe Harbor) has a Facebook account. Schrems complained to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) that Facebook Ireland Limited (Facebook Ireland) transferred his data to its US-parent, Facebook Inc. (Facebook US) for further processing.
In order to transfer personal data to a third country outside of the EEA, that third country (in this case, the US) should offer guarantees ensuring an adequate level of protection for personal data essentially equivalent to the level of protection ensured within the EEA. The European Commission (EC) has not considered the US to provide this adequate level of protection for personal data, so companies that wish to transfer data must rely on other data transfer mechanisms, including the Standard Contractual Clauses. Continue Reading