Facebook and Max Schrems unite in questioning Irish Data Commissioner's decisions

Irish authorities are investigating concerns over data transfers between the EU and the US...

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A woman uses her phone at the Facebook stand during the Web Summit in Dublin in 2015 | Image: Niall Carson / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Facebook and Austrian Max Schrems have both expressed concerns over the legal strategy used by Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner as it continues its probe into the transfer of user data across the Atlantic by the social media giant.

The case relates to the transfer of data through Ireland between the EU and the US. These have been carried out through Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) which were approved in 2001, 2004 and 2010 - however revelations contained in the documents made public by NAS whistleblower Edward Snowden have brought the legality of these agreements into question.

The Irish Commissioner has been criticised for going to court with a case based on a draft, rather than a final ruling. The Irish Times notes that legal counsel for Facebook has accused the regulator of jumping the gun by asking for the European court to rule on a case before national regulators have.

Facebook also transfers data through methods other than SCCs - raising questions over whether Irish authorities have made a mistake by looking specifically at SCCs, rather than looking at all data transfers.

If this leads to follow-up probes into other ways of moving data this will prolong the investigation, and make it more costly.

Mr Schrems fears he could face ballooning legal costs:

"The DPC says it potentially wants legal costs from me, which could stretch into hundreds of thousands of euro ... I could be financially ruined, just because I want my rights respected," he said.

Earlier in this month, senior council for Facebook Ireland, Paul Gallagher reiterated the international importance of this case - and said that if the standing agreements are discovered to not be valid, it will cut the EU's GDP by 1% or €143bn annually.