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Irish High Court dismisses legal bid by Facebook over EU-US data transfers

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Latest twist in long-running legal battle sees Facebook lose legal bid to prevent the Irish Data Protection Commissioner suspending its transfer of data about European citizens to the US

Bill Goodwin

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Published: 18 May 2021 10:30

The Irish High Court has dismissed a legal challenge by Facebook against a draft decision by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) to suspend Facebook Ireland’s transfer of data about European residents to the US.

Justice David Barniville ruled last week that Facebook Ireland had not established any basis for “impugning” the Data Protection Commissioner’s draft decision to suspend Facebook’s data transfers as part of an inquiry.

The decision is the latest in a long-running legal battle between Austrian lawyer Max Schrems and Facebook over the lawfulness of the social media company’s data transfers between Europe and the US.

At issue is whether data transfers to the US breach EU privacy laws by subjecting the data of European citizens to US mass surveillance programmes without offering them adequate legal redress.

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Schrems, who has accused both Facebook and the DPC of delaying tactics, said that after years of legal action, the DPC would now be required to stop Facebook’s data transfers.

“Facebook lost on every ground,” he said. “After eight years, the DPC is now required to stop Facebook’s EU-US data transfers, likely before summer.”

The 127-page High Court judgment, published on 14 May 2021, rejected allegations from Facebook that the DPC had breached its duty of candour in the way it defended the proceedings brought by Facebook.

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The judge also found that the claims made by the DPC – withdrawn during the hearing – that the proceedings brought by Facebook were an abuse of process had no basis and should have been withdrawn at an earlier stage.

A separate action brought by Schrems against the DPC which aimed to halt the DPC’s inquiry into Facebook for different reasons was settled just before it was due to be heard in court on 13 January 2021.

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Schrems first brought a complaint against Facebook in 2013, following the Snowden revelations that the US was engaged in the mass surveillance of email, phone and internet data.

The lawyer challenged the lawfulness of Facebook’s transfer of data on EU citizens to the US under EU data protection law.

Privacy Shield

The case led to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) declaring the Safe Harbour agreement, which was used as a legal mechanism to transfer data between the EU and the US, invalid in September 2014, in a judgment that became known as Schrems I.

In Schrems II, in July 2020, the CJEU struck out Privacy Shield, the successor to Safe Harbour, in a move that created uncertainty for European countries that share data with the US and put pressure on the US to reform its surveillance laws.

Schrems said in a statement: “We now expect the DPC to issue a decision to stop Facebook’s data transfers before summer. This would require Facebook to store most data from Europe locally, to ensure that Facebook USA does not have access to European data.

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“The other option would be for the US to change its surveillance laws.”

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Facebook initiated proceedings in August 2020 after the DPC reached a preliminary draft decision that the social media company’s European headquarters, Facebook Ireland, should not transfer personal data to Facebook in the US.

The draft decision said: “The data transfers at issue are made in circumstances which fail to guarantee a level of protection to data subjects which is ‘essentially equivalent’ to that provided by EU law – and are in breach of the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation].”

Any decision by the DPC is likely to be reviewed by the European Data Protection Board, which is made up of 28 EU member states that have the right to make objections.

The judge will make a final order, including costs, after hearing any further submissions from lawyers from each party once they have considered the judgment.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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