US privacy group informs CJEU on adequacy of US law in protecting EU citizens’ data
9 July 2019
FLAC Press notice
The Court of Justice of the European Union will hear today from US non-governmental organisation EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) in the case of Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook & Max Schrems, on privacy protection for transatlantic data transfers.
EPIC and a number of other parties had been permitted by the High Court to join the case as amici curiae, or “friends of the court”. Such amici can provide expertise and perspectives to assist the court in its deliberations. The US government is also appearing as an amicus in the case.
Legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) represents EPIC in the case.
EPIC provided expert evidence on whether personal data transferred by Facebook Ireland to Facebook US receives adequate legal protection. As an amicus curiae, EPIC provided the High Court with a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the US legal system as to how it protects the personal data of people resident in the EU, including Ireland, a perspective that might not otherwise be available to the court.
In today’s hearing counsel for EPIC will inform the Court that the absence of legally enforceable protections for EU citizens whose personal data is targeted or accessed by surveillance authorities, and lack of any meaningful remedies support the conclusion that the transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S. under the 'standard contractual clauses' (SCC) decisions violates the essence of the rights of individuals under Articles 7, 8 and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
FLAC provides representation in cases that have strategic value and that may effect positive social change, whether to vindicate human rights or to improve access to justice in Ireland.
Conall Cahill, FLAC Communications Assistant
01-887 3600 / 086 272 6142
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- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available to the public through a network of volunteer evening advice centres – more at www.flac.ie/help/. It also campaigns and does policy & law reform work on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
- EPIC is a public interest research centre based in Washington, DC, Established in 1994, EPIC focuses public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues and seeks to protect privacy, freedom of expression, and democratic values in the information age. An independent organisation with no state funding, EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in federal courts, pursues open government cases, defends consumer privacy, organizes conferences and speaks before Congress and judicial organisations about emerging issues. More at www.epic.org.
- In the case, the Data Protection Commissioner has asked the High Court to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union the question of whether certain contracts, known as ‘standard contractual clauses’, protect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is transferred outside Europe. The Commissioner is suing two parties in the case: Facebook Ireland, and Austrian privacy campaigner and lawyer Max Schrems. Proceedings started on 7 February.
Standard contractual clauses have been approved by various European Commission decisions. They were designed to allow businesses to transfer the personal data of EU citizens to countries outside the European Economic Area while ensuring the citizens enjoyed equivalent privacy rights to those they have in the EU.
The case follows a landmark decision invalidating an international arrangement for transferring data in light of the U.S. surveillance regime. In the challenge by privacy advocate Max Schrems, the Court of Justice of the European Union found insufficient legal protections for the transfer of European data to the United States.
- Amicus curiae translates as ‘friend of the court’. The amicus is not a party to the case. Its role is to provide expertise to the court as an impartial third party and assist the Court in arriving at its decision. There has been limited use of the amicus mechanism in the Irish courts, although the practice is growing. This case is notable in that the appointment of an NGO as amicus is rare, and rarer still is the appointment of a non-Irish amicus.