Facebook Could Face Investigation In Ireland Over PRISM Data

A group of Austrian law students demands action from the Irish privacy watchdog

The Irish High Court has ordered a review of the decision by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) not to investigate Facebook’s links To PRISM and the US National Security Agency (NSA), after it was contested by a group of law students from Austria.

The group calling itself ‘Europe-v-Facebook’ had previously demanded a full investigation into the relationship between Internet companies and the US intelligence agency as it accuses Facebook of breaking the law in supplying NSA with personal information about its European users.

Protecting privacy

Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, made headlines across the world earlier this year when he revealed the existence of several highly intrusive electronic surveillance projects run by the US government and its allies, including PRISM and XKeyscore.

Court, legal © tlegend, Shutterstock 2012According to the classified documents published by Snowden in June, the NSA collected data from services run by Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Facebook’s European headquarters are located in Ireland, where the corporate tax is among the lowest in the EU. However, the local privacy watchdog had refused to investigate the company’s links to PRISM, classifying the student complaint as “frivolous or vexatious”.

This week, after a long campaign by Europe-v-Facebook funded by donations, the High Court has granted an application for judicial review of this decision. In other words, if ODPC still thinks it has no grounds for an investigation, it will have to defend this position in court.

“The DPC simply wanted to get this hot potato off his table instead of doing his job. But when it comes to the fundamental rights of millions of users and the biggest surveillance scandal in years, he will have to take responsibility and do something about it,” said the leader of the student group Max Schrems.

Schrems also said that in the event the case does go to court, he hopes for a ruling in the next six months.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has demanded explanation from the Obama administration, after it emerged that her phone might have been tapped by the NSA.

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