Many companies, particularly tech firms, have said the Safe Harbour agreement helps them get round cumbersome checks to transfer data between offices on both sides of the Atlantic, including payroll and human resources information and also lucrative data used for online advertising.
Mr Schrems filed his complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, as Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland.
The judgement is likely to have a significant impact on companies that had previously shared their European databases with operations arms in the USA and it is unclear how a few businesses will adjust in order to comply with the rule change. He had complained about the way Facebook transfers his personal data to the USA, where it can be accessed by authorities with little respect for his privacy.
See Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
In addition, European Union citizens have no means of legal recourse against the misuse of their data in the United States, the court said.
The European Commission and the United States mission to the EU in Brussels declined to immediately comment.
This decision stems from a complaint made by Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist.
Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems challenged the Safe Harbour treaty in his fight to expose what information Facebook gave to American intelligence agencies.
The suit took issue with Facebook’s support of the alleged support of the NSA’s “Prism” surveillance program, the tracking of Internet users on third-party sites (through “Like” buttons), and what Schrems said is the unlawful introduction of Graph Search, among other infractions.
The Ireland data protection authority, which had cited Safe Harbor when it rejected the claims by Schrems about the security of his Facebook information, must now reconsider them.
He was opposed to Facebook data on European users being transferred to the U.S. The case ended up in an Irish court, which in 2014 referred a number of questions to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, whose Tuesday ruling is binding.
‘It is imperative that European Union and U.S. governments ensure that they continue to provide reliable methods for lawful data transfers and resolve any issues relating to national security, ‘ a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, the vice-president pledged to hand out a clear guidance for national data protection authorities on how to deal with data transfer requests to the US, in the light of the ruling in the next weeks. While the Safe Harbor agreement is in favor of the USA, and can always subject to interference by authorities, a few procedures still need to be followed.
Edward Snowden talking via video link.
Sophie In’t Veld, a leading Liberal lawmaker in the European Parliament, welcomed the ruling and called the “safe harbour” decision “a travesty of legality”.