In an interview, Ireland’s data privacy authority indicated that EU-US data transfers by Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram might be blocked as soon as May. Still, the decision would not immediately affect other large tech companies.

Due to fears that U.S. government monitoring may not respect E.U. residents’ privacy rights, Europe’s top court declared in 2020 that an EU-US data-sharing treaty was invalid.

That caused Meta’s chief European regulator, the Data Protection Commission (DPC), to issue a preliminary decision.

Another decision may be coming soon

The decision by the DPC stated that the method used by Facebook and Instagram to send data from the bloc’s users to the U.S. could not in practice be employed.

The order, which does not extend to WhatsApp since it is under the management of a separate data administrator within the Meta group, was temporarily halted due to a legal challenge but was reinstated in May when the Irish High Court overruled Meta’s allegations.

There could be an updated decision shared with other E.U. regulators in April. If none of them objects, there could be a final decision by the end of May, according to a statement by Helen Dixon to Reuters.

Holes in the net

Dixon continued to say that if there were a scenario where data flows were seen as illegal and needed to stop, the impact would be widely felt.

However, the investigation is unlikely to result in an automatic suspension of such data flows at Meta’s big competitors, many of whom have E.U. headquarters in Ireland as well.

According to Dixon, the DPC’s final determination regarding Facebook would be exclusive to Facebook and directed solely at Facebook, with potentially more investigations into hundreds of companies with large internet platforms.