December 9, 2022


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In August, you may lose access to Facebook

In August, you may lose access to Facebook

Guest Comment: Facebook and Instagram may disappear from Europe following a new decision by the Irish Data Protection Authority.

Remember what it was like before social media? Be prepared for a possible reunion.
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Might personal data be processed in a way that enables US companies to access it? This question has been a hotly debated topic since 2013, when the Austrian Maximilian Shrems Facebook first complained to the Irish Data Protection Authority in an effort to stop Facebook data transfers from Europe to the United States.

Since the first complaint in 2013, it has been gradually announced that Facebook will be prohibited from processing personal data, as well as most of the so-called “transatlantic data transfers”. However, the data transfers are not stopped. Instead, the general attitude appears to have been to train litigation in the hope that some sort of solution will emerge along the way.

Many people may have thought that data transfers to the United States were so massive that data transfers could not be stopped in practice, even if they were illegal on paper. In addition, some of the decisions were so vague and full of exceptions that it was a bit difficult to understand what was not allowed.

US authorities should not
need any reason,
good or bad, to be able to
Monitor anyone.

However, privacy organization Noyb can do this Report Ireland’s data protection authority on July 7 notified other data authorities in Europe that it would prevent Facebook’s owner Meta from transferring personal data to the United States. It can also have consequences for other Meta services, such as Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

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What will happen next is still uncertain, because the decision was sent for a month-long hearing to other European data protection supervisors, before a final decision was made by the European Privacy Council around mid-August.

Why is the United States a problem?

The reason why transatlantic data transfers are so controversial that most transmissions to the United States are arguably illegal are some diametrically opposed perceptions of what comes first when the people of a country are protected:

  • In Europe we have a general law that states that the individual rights and freedoms of individuals must be weighed so heavily that citizens should not be monitored by the authorities if there is no doubt that what they are involved in may represent a form of danger.
  • In the United States, on the other hand, monitoring comes first. The US authorities should have no reason, good or bad, to be able to monitor anyone.

Then there may have been many who shrugged their shoulders and thought it might be on paper, but it is unreasonable to believe that the United States conducts unrestricted, arbitrary, and systematic surveillance of citizens in Europe. However, that bubble burst when former employees of the CIA and NSA were Edward Snowden He went to the press with documents that showed that this is exactly what the US government did.

The challenge this creates is that if a company operating in a European market transmits information about a European outside of Europe, the company must be able to document that the rights of that European are well protected in the country to which the information is sent as is. in Europe. It has proven completely impossible when the company or one of the company’s subcontractors sends the information to the United States.

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Several creative attempts have been made to get around the problem. Microsoft has set up its own hardware parks in Europe to run its cloud solutions here, and it’s encrypting what they call “customer data” there in such a way that it can’t be read from the wrong side of the Atlantic. But they still have to access “diagnostic data” and “data generated from the service” in order to operate these machines, which, among other things, were recently done by the Rhineland-Palatinate Data Protection Authority. pointed out It also contains personal information whose transmission is illegal.

Google has tried to “anonymize” the paths it creates in Google Analytics, but both the French and Italian data protection authorities say so can not be used Google Analytics is legal in Europe as long as “anonymous” people can be tracked from a visit from one website to another. The Italian Data Protection Authority has gone so far as to say that all uses of Google Analytics must stop.

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What now?

Although statements about the illegality of transmissions are becoming increasingly clear and unambiguous, so far few have been fined for using data transmission services to the United States. Thus the vast majority still have it more or less as before.

The outcome of the European Privacy Council’s handling of Meta transfers to the United States has not been determined, and although the Council maintains that such measures must stop, Facebook may continue as before. They had managed to train a clear ban for nine years already, without a single fine.

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However, the situation is turning out to be much more than it has been so far, and we may completely lose access to Facebook as of mid-August. And the same with Instagram. Whatsapp.

It will be interesting to know the reactions that may subsequently affect companies that use Amazon and Microsoft cloud services, or have websites that use Google Analytics.

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