EU Still Blocking Social Media Users' Data Transfer

Meta has said it is considering shutting down Facebook and Instagram in Europe if it can’t keep transferring user data back to the US. Recently, the EU has protected social media sites like Facebook and Instagram from shutdown. According to the GDPR, US intelligence agencies must now be blocked from accessing EU data.

That’s a dilemma. It’s difficult to exchange data between the US and EU without breaking the law on one of the continents.

A draft decision by the data privacy  regulatory authority in Ireland (where Facebook is domiciled in the EU for tax reasons) to block the social media sites' parent company Meta's data transfers from Europe to the US is stuck in the process, as regulators from across the EU argue over the details.

Meta processes European data in US data centres, including the data of Instagram and Facebook users and, according to US laws, intelligence agencies must be able to access data stored within US territory. 

In July Ireland's privacy regulator decided to block Facebook's owner Meta from using a last legal mechanism called standard contractual clauses to transfer large amounts of messages across the Atlantic. The Irish decision followed a 2020 European Court of Justice ruling that deemed large transfers of data between Europe and the US illegal because they expose Europeans to US government surveillance risks.

Meta has repeatedly said that a decision blocking its transfers would force it to shutter its Facebook and Instagram offerings in Europe.

However, the Irish decision is still pending review by other authorities in Europe. A spokesperson for the Irish regulator has said that it had received objections from several other EU regulators to its draft order, which effectively delays a final decision to shut down the data flows and gives Facebook some much needed breathing space.   

A spokesperson for the Irish regulator has said that it had received objections from several other EU regulators to its draft order, which effectively delays a final decision to shut down the data flows and gives Facebook some badly-needed breathing space.  

The Irish regulator is now expected to take time to resolve the objections. It previously has taken the regulator up to four months to attempt to tweak decisions upon request of other European regulators. If the Irish regulator fails to resolve the dissenting opinions, as it has done in most of its decisions against the US Big Tech firms, it would have to trigger an official dispute resolution mechanism.

This would bring in the European Data Protection Board, delaying the process by at least another month.

All these delays would put Meta within touching distance of being able to keep its data flows to the US alive through a new transatlantic data pact, which negotiators plan to complete within the first quarter of 2023. With the new EU-US data deal in place, Meta and thousands of other companies would be able to use that agreement to move people’s information across the Atlantic.

EU Curia:    Politico:   Politico:     AdWeek:      CNBC:     Techzine:    SEC:     Inc42

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