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Breaking News VIDEOs-Snowden:UK/US Spy on Smartphones/Data Privacy Ruling


Student Wins Landmark Legal Battle to Stop Facebook Handing over Data to US Spies in Ruling Which Could Affect Tech Giants Google, Skype and Apple

  • European Court of Justice dealt blow to Facebook in privacy ruling
  • Decided that company must be investigated over alleged abuse
  • Facebook's Irish subsidiary funnels data to U.S., where spies can see it
  • Activity was protected by 'Safe Harbour' deal, but court declared it invalid
Daily Mail UK, 6 October 2015

An agreement that allows U.S. spies to harvest vast amounts of personal information from FBook has been ruled invalid by Europe's top court.

The 'safe harbour' treaty, under which Facebook supplies massive amounts of personal data to U.S. intelligence agencies, has been ruled inadequate because it infringes the privacy of users.
Judges have now ordered an inquiry into the agreement which they warn could end the transfer of data by Facebook and other tech giants including Google, Yahoo!, Skype and Apple.

Giving Facebook the finger: Law student Max Schrems, 28, has dealt a blow to Facebook after his legal case knocked holes in a treaty it uses to send its data to the U.S., where spy agencies can get it

Ruling: Mr Schrems won the legal victory, which will result in a probe into Facebook by the Irish data watchdog, which has previously refused to intervene

The case, which has dealt a severe blow to Facebook and the U.S., was brought by Austrian law student Max Schrems, 28, who was concerned about the practice that was revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Mr Schrems crowdfunded more than €66,300 for his campaign after making an appeal through his website. After the ruling was made Tuesday morning he sent a message saying 'YAY' to his 5,000 Twitter followers.

He later posted a statement online hailing the ruling. He said: 'This judgement draws a clear line. It clarifies that mass surveillance violates our fundamental rights'.
He added that his victory 'highlights that governments and businesses cannot simply ignore our fundamental right to privacy, but must abide by the law and enforce it'.

Bated breath: Mr Schrems is pictured in the mostly-empty Luzembourg courtroom ahead of the verdict

Decision: European judges are pictured taking their seats ahead of trashing the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbour treaty

Long campaign: Mr Schrems has been battling Facebook since 2010, after deciding the company did not take European law seriously enough


The 'Safe Harbour' treaty today deemed invalid by top judges was a deal struck 15 years ago to allow U.S. companies easier access to European data.

Within the E.U. strict laws apply to anyone collecting personal data - and anyone they hand it on to has to be equally trustworthy.
The 2000 Safe Harbour agreement allows American companies to sign up with the U.S. Department of Commerce as a safe pair of hands, a standard for which they can certify themselves.
This allows them unfettered access to E.U. data, based on the premise that U.S. data laws are similarly robust.

However, the mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden raised concerns about how the U.S. treats private information - and led to today's challenge which ended in the blanket waiver being declared invalid.
He brought the case against Facebook in Ireland because all the company's operations outside the U.S. and Canada are run from Dublin.
The Safe Harbour agreement was struck in 2000 between the U.S. and E.U. to allow data sharing and cut red tape.

But the European Court of Justice has now ruled that America's protections are too weak to offer proper protection to European users.
Judges sitting in Luxembourg said U.S. authorities will always put their national security first, meaning that they cannot be trusted to protect the privacy of E.U. users.

Happy days: Mr Schrems tweeted 'YAY' in celebration after the ruling. He is pictured leaving court with his lawyer Herwig Hofmann

They made their decision in the wake of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealing a slew of mass surveillance operations run by his former employer.

Ruling: The blow to Facebook was dealt by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, pictured above

They include the Prism programme, which gives the NSA routine access to data troves stored by American tech giants like Google, Yahoo!, Skype, Apple and Facebook.

The ECJ ruling said: 'The court declares the Safe Harbour decision invalid.
'The United States Safe Harbour scheme thus enables interference, by United States public authorities, with the fundamental rights of persons, and the (Data Protection) Commission decision does not refer either to the existence, in the United States, of rules intended to limit any such interference or to the existence of effective legal protection against the interference.'
'This judgment has the consequence that the Irish supervisory authority is required to examine Mr Schrems' complaint with all due diligence and, at the conclusion of its investigation, is to decide whether, pursuant to the directive, transfer of the data of Facebook's European subscribers to the United States should be suspended on the ground that that country does not afford an adequate level of protection of personal data.'
The ruling came before the court because of a challenge by an Austrian law student concerned over mass surveillance.


The challenge to Facebook's treatment of users' data was launched by an Austrian law student.
Max Schrems, 28, a PhD student at the University of Vienna, crowdfunded his campaign to hold Facebook's feet to the fire over its cooperation with U.S. spies.
So far his website has raised more than €66,300 for the campaign against Facebook, which escalated into a battle with Irish data chiefs played out in Europe's highest court.

Mr Schrems describes himself simply as 'a Facebook user' who is concerned about who can see his own data.
He has been battling Facebook for at least three years after being shocked by what he saw as a cavalier disregard for E.U. rules by one of Facebook's top lawyers.

He first used E.U. laws to demand all the company's data on him, which amounted to more than 1,200 pages. Senior executives from Facebook have met with him in Vienna in an attempt to calm his campaign against them.

In 2013 he filed a complaint against Facebook with Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, demanding that it probe the tech giant to see what data it makes available to U.S. spies.
His case was slapped down for being 'frivolous', and told Facebook's activities were covered under the 'Safe Harbour' provisions which have now been declared invalid.

Schrems then turned to the European Court of Justice, which in its latest ruling decided that Safe Harbour was not a proper excuse, and that the Irish watchdog must conduct its own investigation.

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