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Meta’s EU Future Hangs On Irish Authority’s Draft Data Regulations

 |  July 18, 2022

Meta (formerly Facebook) will be paying close attention to the discussions that will be held today, July 12, on the plenary session of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). The outcome of these discussions may have a direct impact on the company’s ability to provide services like Instagram and Facebook in Europe. 

Last week, the Irish data protection regulator issued a draft decision that could prevent Meta from moving data about European Union users to the United States. If the decision is finally adopted in its current terms, it could affect services like Instagram and Facebook in Europe. WhatsApp is not affected by the decision. 

The Irish decision stems from an EU court decision in 2020 that invalidated an EU-US agreement regulating trans-Atlantic data flows because, among other reasons, US laws give surveillance agencies access to information about EU users. In its ruling, the EU court deemed the US safeguards of Europeans’ data to be insufficient. Under EU law, information about Europeans can’t be sent overseas unless the country where it is being sent is deemed to give the same level of protection as the EU. Although the US has never been able to provide the same assurances, both countries struck a special deal by which US companies could opt into a program to apply EU privacy principles. 

Without this agreement in place, Meta cannot transfer data from EU users to the U.S. However, since the 2020 ruling, Meta has been relying on Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC) to keep data moving. However, the Irish data regulator, in the country where Meta is headquartered in Europe, told the company on Thursday that SCC are not sufficient to comply with the EU court ruling — in other words, the company cannot use this mechanism to move data to the U.S.  

The company already warned investors in February through its annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that if the then-preliminary Irish decision was to become final, it would prevent Meta from providing services in Europe.