Court Allows Irish Regulator To Proceed With Inquiry Into Facebook Data

Facebook lost a bid to block a European Union privacy decision that could suspend its ability to send information about European users to US computer servers, opening a pathway toward a precedent-setting interruption of its data flows.

Ireland’s High Court dismissed Friday all of Facebook’s procedural complaints about a preliminary decision on data flows that it received in August from the country’s Data Protection Commission. It rejected Facebook’s claims that the privacy regulator had given it too little time to respond or issued a judgment prematurely. 

The preliminary decision, which the court stayed in September pending its decision, could, if finalized, force the social-media company to suspend sending personal information about EU users to Facebook’s servers in the US.

While Friday’s court decision is a procedural one, the underlying questions are central to trans-Atlantic trade and the digital economy. Legal experts say the logic in Ireland’s provisional order could apply to other large tech companies that are subject to U.S. surveillance laws, such as cloud services and email providers—potentially leading to widespread disruption of trans-Atlantic data flows. In the balance are potentially billions of dollars of business in the cloud-computing, social-media and advertising industries.

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