In breaking legal news for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Irish Judge Desmond Hogan has ordered that a privacy challenge regarding Facebook’s sharing of user data with the NSA taken in the Irish courts be referred to the European court of justice for further consideration.
Facebook’s personal data access: Details on the decision
In his decision, Judge Hogan said the evidence clearly suggests that personal data is routinely accessed on a “mass and undifferentiated basis” by the U.S. NSA. Furthermore, he said this could be a problem because Facebook users should have their privacy respected under the Irish constitution.
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“For such interception of communications to be constitutionally valid, it would, accordingly, be necessary to demonstrate that this interception and surveillance of individuals or groups of individuals was objectively justified in the interests of the suppression of crime and national security and, further, that any such interception was attended by the appropriate and verifiable safeguards,” Hogan said in his ruling.
Euro high court to address two questions
Hogan shifted the final decision on the case over to the European court of justice in Strasbourg. He wants the court to determine whether Ireland’s data watchdog is legally held to Safe Harbour – a European commission decision that U.S. data protection rules are sufficient if information is passed by companies to national security agencies on a “self-certify” basis.
He is also asking the court in Strasbourg to determine whether an investigation can be undertaken in Ireland given the Snowden revelations that internet data and communications were being intercepted globally by the NSA.
The case was brought to Hogan’s court by Austrian privacy activist Max Shrem. In his comments, Judge Hogan also said only the naive could have been surprised by the Snowden expose.
“Only the foolish would deny that the US has, by virtue of its superpower status, either assumed – or, if you prefer, has had cast upon it – far-reaching global security responsibilities,” he said.
“It is probably the only world power with a global reach which can effectively monitor the activities of rogue states, advanced terrorist groups and major organised crime, even if the support of allied states such as the UK is also of great assistance.
“The monitoring of global communications – subject, of course, to key safeguards – is accordingly regarded essential if the US is to discharge the mandate which it has assumed.
“These surveillance programmes have undoubtedly saved many lives and have helped to ensure a high level of security, both throughout the western world and elsewhere.
“But there may also be suspicion in some quarters that this type of surveillance has had collateral objects and effects, including the preservation and reinforcing of American global political and economic power.”