EU court adviser: Facebook protects user data in U.S. transfers

Facebook scored a symbolic legal victory Thursday at a European Union court, in which its chief legal adviser said the social media giant legally and securely transfers data from EU-based users to the United States.

Thursday’s opinion is a victory for Facebook on the issue of users’ privacy, although it is nonbinding. File Photo by Gian Ehrenzeller/

The nonbinding opinion from Henrik Saugmandsgaard Oe, advocate general to the Court of Justice of the European Union, is a win for Facebook following its legal battles with Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, a co-founder of the European Center for Digital Rights.

Schrems is suing Facebook’s European subsidiary in Ireland, in part, to challenge the legality of the platform’s EU-U.S. data transfers on the basis of “standard contractual clauses.” The clauses are the most commonly used method to legitimize transfers of personal data from the 28-nation bloc to non-EU countries.

Schrems contends the company does not adequate protect European users’ data from U.S. intelligence gathering activities, particularly those of the National Security Agency.

The suit, known as “Schrems II,” is pending before the Court of Justice, and a decision is expected early next year. A ruling against Facebook could significantly alter the conditions under which EU companies share data with third countries.

Although it’s nonbinding, Oe’s opinion, issued as a preliminary step leading up to the ruling, indicates the court may back Facebook’s position.

Oe said the standard contractual clauses do provide sufficient protections for European users, and are “valid.”

ByDon Jacobson