A lawsuit against Facebook strengthens the powers of European privacy guarantors

A lawsuit against Facebook strengthens the powers of European privacy guarantors

Recognized the possibility that each authority for the protection of personal data of the 27 States intervenes on issues relating to the GDPR. Not putting all the weight on Ireland

(Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET / AFP via Getty Images) Since the GDPR, the European regulation for data protection, has been in force, companies that want to offer their services in Europe, whether European or foreign, can elect a head office in one of the 27 member states, obtaining the right to speak only with the privacy guarantor of that country even in cases where the violation of the GDPR has occurred in another state. This is the so-called “one-stop shop” mechanism. This mechanism undoubtedly offers an enormous advantage to companies that in this way can settle in the country of their choice, and where a language they know is spoken, without having to find twenty-six different law firms for each of the Member States.

For this reason, a ruling by the European Court of Justice on the subject, issued on June 15, was particularly awaited. The case revolved precisely around the possibility for an Authority for the protection of personal data of a member country other than that of the lead authority to be able to bring a company to court for violation of the GDPR. If the Court of Justice had ruled in favor of this possibility, watering down the one-stop shop mechanism, many companies would have found themselves faced with the possibility of having to face a judgment in the courts of all those countries in which they offer their services and beyond. in the country where they have established their headquarters.

The case

The case dates back to 2015, when the Belgian Privacy Guarantor brought Facebook to court for not having sufficiently informed its users of the fact that they were also tracked outside the social network Zuckerberg network. After the victory of the guarantor at first instance, the Gdpr came into force on 25 May 2018, so the Court of Appeal preferred to ask the European Court of Justice if the Belgian court was still competent in the case. With the GDPR, it would be up to the Irish Guarantor to have to proceed against Facebook, since the company has established its European headquarters in Dublin.

The judgment of the court

The court reiterated that the one-stop shop system is not under discussion but that, as foreseen by the Gdpr, the guarantors of the various EU member states must collaborate in a fair and effective way. The dialogue between the authorities is considered by the court to be indispensable. The court states that any guarantor authority can take legal action when the Gdpr allows it, as long as the company has an establishment within the European Union. And there is no need for this possibility to be established by national law. The sarante authority can bring both the main office, in this case Facebook Ireland, and the secondary offices, in this case the Belgian branch, to trial. The authority can also continue its legal action for the conduct held before the entry into force of the Gdpr.

All losers and winners

This sentence has seen all parties rejoice. For Facebook, as commented to Euractiv, the good news is that the Court has reiterated the persistence of the one-stop shop system, removing the danger of having to face 27 different authorities. The Beuc consumer association was equally happy to see the recognition of the possibility for all authorities, in the specific cases provided for by the GDPR, to be able to proceed autonomously without having to pass the hand to the guarantors of Ireland or Luxembourg, competent for the big techs in Europe but accused of having done too little in these three years.

The Court on the one hand wanted to save the "one-stop shop", on the other it stressed that that system works only if the lead authority collaborates quickly for the effective application of the Gdpr. It therefore seems important that the leader does not act as a bottleneck since the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union guarantees the interested party the right to data protection and an effective remedy. Now the Belgian guarantor will carefully study the repercussions of the sentence on his case before the court of appeal and will evaluate the next steps.

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