A big decision from the European Court of Justice

A big decision from the European Court of Justice

A major decision was reached last week by the European Court of Justice in what has become known as the Schrems II case and I thought you might be interested in a quick outline of its significance for you.

There is a lot background and context to the case but, in short, on Thursday the European Court of Justice delivered a major and long-awaited decision which struck down one of the major mechanisms for transfers of data between Europe in the US.

Essentially, Europe’s data protection law, the GDPR, is based on the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights of the EU and EU law says that you can’t transfer anyone’s personal data outside the EU unless the same safeguards apply in the place to where the data is being transferred.

The US takes a different approach and its rules on privacy derive more from property rights than human rights, it’s an important and fundamental philosophical difference.

However, most tech business in the world are based in the US and therefore almost every internet or cloud-based service that you use involves transfers of personal data to the US.

The big question arising from the Court of Justice’s decision this week was whether these transfers should all just stop.

Can you imagine if someone just turned off the internet for you, and all the really useful things you have access to?

Yes, the potential consequences are really that stark.

Sure, none of us wants to live in an age of surveillance capitalism, but still, we all want convenient access to the cool stuff we have online.

Thankfully international data transfers didn’t just stop this week and since Thursday a lot of very smart legal minds have been applying them to unpicking what seems like an impossible problem and coming up with solutions.

It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds for the ability of businesses to transfer data out of the EU and what the long term consequences will be for the availability of internet services in the EU as a result.

It’s something I’ll be watching with a very active interest.

And as soon as it all gets a little clearer I’ll update you. (Meanwhile, if you’re interested in more detail there’s a good explainer here.)

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Flor McCarthy is one of Ireland’s leading lawyers, certified by the Law Society of Ireland in Data Protection Practice. Flor has extensive expertise and hands-on practical experience in privacy, data protection and GDPR issues for marketers. He was chosen as Munster Solicitor of the Year at the Irish Law Awards in 2018.