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Top Irish court rejects Facebook appeal to block EU privacy case referral

The Supreme Court of Ireland dismissed Facebook Inc.'s bid to halt the referral of a privacy case involving transatlantic data transfers to the Court of Justice of the European Union, Dublin's Irish Independent reported May 31.

The court ruled that it cannot entertain an appeal against the Irish High Court's 2017 decision to refer the case to the CJEU. The EU's top court will now have to determine the legality of the methods used by tech companies in transferring EU citizens' data to the U.S., in relation to standard contractual clauses and the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement.

The High Court ruling stemmed from a case filed October 2017 by Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon, in response to a complaint by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems on whether Facebook's transfer of his personal information to the U.S. violated his privacy rights as an EU citizen. The watchdog also decided to refer Facebook's actions to the Court of Justice of the European Union, or CJEU.

Facebook's appeal stated that the case need not be referred to the CJEU since the U.S. ensures an adequate level of protection for personal data transfers under its Privacy Shield agreement with the EU. The U.S. government joined Facebook's appeal as an amicus curiae, supporting the company's argument.

The social networking giant eventually elevated the case to the Supreme Court, after the High Court refused its appeal on the referral.

Facebook is facing an array of probes into its data policies. In the U.S., federal prosecutors launched an investigation into the company's data-sharing partnerships with hardware and software developers. The Federal Trade Commission is also considering a "record-setting fine" against Facebook over the improper sharing of its users' information by data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica LLC.

The Privacy Shield pact replaced the previous EU-U.S. Safe Harbor agreement on transatlantic data transfers, which was ultimately struck down by the CJEU over privacy concerns.