In May, an Irish regulator might stop Facebook and Instagram's data transfers from the EU to the United States

In May, an Irish regulator might stop Facebook and Instagram's data transfers from the EU to the Uni ...

  • Other EU regulators could force delay
  • Ruling would not immediately hit Meta rivals
  • Politicians seeking compromise

DUBLIN, February 24, - Data transfers by Meta owned Facebook and Instagram may be halted as soon as May, but the move would not immediately affect other big tech firms, according to Ireland's data privacy regulator.

In 2020, Europe's highest court decided that an EU-US data transfer agreement was unenforceable because to concerns that US government surveillance might not respekt EU citizens' privacy rights.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), the leading European regulator, has issued a proviso order that Facebook and Instagram to transfer information from European Union users to the United States "cannot in practice be used."

The procedure, which does not apply to WhatsApp as it has a different data controller within the Meta group, was dismissed following a legal challenge but was reinstated last May when the Irish High Court dismissed Meta's claims.

In April, an updated decision might be shared with other EU regulators and, if none of them lodge an objection, "the earliest time we may have a final decision could be the end of May," Helen Dixon said. Any objection may add some months to the timeline.

"If there were a scenario where data flow was considered illegal and required a stop, the consequences might be huge," she said.

There isn't even a way that the investigation might entail an automatic stop of similar data flows at Meta's big competitors, many of whom also have their European headquarters in Ireland.

"The decision that the DPC will ultimately make in relation to Facebook will be specific to Facebook and addressed only to Facebook," Dixon said.

"We cannot make a more broad and more broad conclusion" after the CJEU's decision, the plaintiff said. "We must go company by company."

"Hundreds of thousands of individuals" might have to be examined, according to Dixon, starting with other important internet platforms.

Without a fresh transatlantic data transfer framework, Meta has warned that a stoppage will likely leave it unable to provide significant services such as Facebook and Instagram in Europe.

The United States Commerce Department and the EU Commission have a political dialogue on such remedies, but the Irish regulator hasn't been informed of any progress.

Dixon's office has so far completed two investigations of multinationals under new EU privacy regulations introduced in 2018, including hitting WhatsApp with a 225 million euro fine last year.

Dixon said the DPC will complete nine or ten of the 30 open investigations in 2022, an increase that she attributed to the near-doubling of its workforce in three years and would serve as an answer to critics who claim her office is inadequate in order to manage the enormous work flow.

The number of employees will rise to 260 by the end of 2022 from 195 currently and just 27 in 2014, but it will be expected to continue to rise for "years to come," according to Dixon.

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