On Tuesday, Ireland’s High Court ordered an investigation into Facebook’s transfer of European Union users’ data to the United States to make sure personal privacy was properly protected from U.S. government surveillance.
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner told the court to launch a probe following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice two weeks ago which struck down the Safe Harbour agreement that had allowed the free transfer of data between the European Union and the United States.
The initial challenge was made in Ireland because Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin and is regulated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
The data commissioner’s office said in a statement it would now “proceed to investigate the substance of the complaint with all due diligence”.
Facebook said in a statement it had never been part of a program to give the U.S. government direct access to its servers and said it would respond to enquiries by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
The European Court of Justice ruling has thousands of U.S and European companies mired in legal uncertainty over the transfer of personal data from European to the United States. That includes payroll and human resources information as well as data used for online advertising, which is of a particular importance to tech firms.
Under EU data protection law, companies cannot transfer EU citizens’ personal data to countries outside the bloc deemed to have insufficient safeguards.
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