Meta repeats why it may be forced to pull Facebook from EU

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 09:57 AM IST

The Irish Data Protection Commission could issue its decision on a possible ban of EU-US data transfers under standard contractual clauses in the next three months. Meta Platforms Inc. said that this would leave them with no choice but to pull its popular Facebook and Instagram services from the European Union

Meta could face an imminent data flow ban from Ireland’s data protection watchdog. (AFP File photo)
Meta could face an imminent data flow ban from Ireland’s data protection watchdog. (AFP File photo)
Bloomberg | | Posted by Singh Rahul Sunilkumar

Meta Platforms Inc. reiterated its warning that it may have no choice but to pull its popular Facebook and Instagram services from the European Union if a new transatlantic data transfer pact doesn’t materialise.

Meta could face an imminent data flow ban from Ireland’s data protection watchdog, which oversees a number of Silicon Valley tech giants based in the country, in a decision that risks impeding transatlantic data flows. The Irish Data Protection Commission could issue its decision on a possible ban of EU-US data transfers under so-called standard contractual clauses in the next three months, Meta said in a regulatory filing.

The EU and US in March broke a deadlock to reach a tentative deal on a new data-transfer pact after a previous accord was struck down by the bloc’s top court over concerns US agencies could snoop on the information without adequate privacy safeguards. Negotiations on a new pact won’t likely conclude before next year, by which time the Irish might already have issued their ban on the SCCs.

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“If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from the EU to the US, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe,” Meta said in a US regulatory filing.

This “would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations,” it added.

Meta said in an emailed statement that it welcomes the EU-US political agreement “for a new legal framework that will allow the continued transfer of data across borders” and that it expects this “will allow us to keep families, communities and economies connected.”

“Like all listed companies, we are legally obliged to disclose material risks to our investors and have set out the latest developments around data transfers in all of our most recent earnings statements,” Meta said.

The controversy over data transfers dates back to 2013 when Edward Snowden exposed the extent of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency. A surprise 2020 ruling by the EU’s highest court toppled the so-called Privacy Shield, a trans-Atlantic transfer pact, over longstanding fears that citizens’ data wasn’t safe from American surveillance.

SCCs are an EU approved data transfer tool that include specific data protection protections for personal data and allow companies to ship data outside the bloc without violating the EU’s strict data protection rules.

While the use of SCCs was upheld, the EU Court of Justice’s doubts about American data protection also made this a shaky alternative. The Irish data watchdog from the start cast doubt on the legality of this alternative tool.

The Irish authority in a preliminary decision in February said transfers to the US under SCCs “should be suspended” and this decision “has since been further refined” and sent it to the other 26 EU watchdogs for their input, Meta said in the regulatory filing.

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