New EU-US data deal may come too late for Facebook control

A new deal to secure the transfer of personal data from EU citizens to the United States will not come into effect in time to prevent a suspension of Facebook’s transatlantic data flows, the US company’s top European regulator said on Tuesday.

Facebook owner Meta, which has warned that a shutdown could force the company to suspend Facebook services in Europe, declined to comment on the regulator’s decision or when the new deal would take effect.

EU regulators, led by Helen Dixon, Ireland’s data protection commissioner, have finalized a ban on the legal tool used by Facebook amid US intelligence concerns that it could access European users’ data.

In an interview, Dixon said the ban could take effect as early as mid-May, while the new EU-US data protection framework, which provides an alternative basis for transfers, could take longer.

“There’s definitely a chance. More than a chance, I’d say,” said Dixon, who is the European regulator for US tech companies including Apple, Google and Twitter because their regional headquarters are in Ireland.

“They could be very close on the timeline or the TBC’s suspension order could come into effect earlier,” Dixon told Reuters. “It will come.”

This suspension will set a precedent for other companies. Other European regulators must sign on before April 13, after which Dixon must issue a ruling.

A spokesperson for Meta said, “The company is pleased with the progress made by policymakers in ensuring data exchange across borders and awaits the regulator’s final decision on the matter.”

New configuration

Officials have said a new EU-US framework will be ready by the summer, giving EU citizens the same level of data protection as European law. “They’re still talking about July,” Dixon said.

It is expected to be legally challenged by critics who see it as too weak. Two previous US-EU agreements, the Safe Harbor and the Privacy Shield, were rejected by the EU’s Supreme Court.

Dixon said he and his fellow regulators welcomed the new deal and hoped the European Commission would avoid litigation.

Critics, such as privacy activist Max Schrems, have accused Dixon and his agency of being under-resourced and soft.

“We’re really on a roll and working at a fast pace,” said Dixon, whose company handed out more than 1 billion euros in fines last year – two-thirds of all fines handed out in the EU and Britain last year.

It is working on 22 large-scale international cases against Google, Metta and TikTok, closing 17 cases last year, he said.

It plans to increase its workforce from 200 last year to 250 this year and 27 when Dixon joined in 2014.

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