The Irish privacy authority wants to ban data transfers between Meta and the United States. The bill can be implemented in a few months. There’s a chance that Instagram and Facebook will no longer be available to European users.

The Irish privacy authority shared the proposal in a letter to all European privacy authorities. The privacy authorities have one month to respond. If the proposal is greenlit, Meta will no longer be allowed to transfer data from the EU and US. According to Meta, a ban would “likely make it impossible” to offer Instagram and Facebook in Europe. There’s a chance that the organization will shut down the platforms in Europe.

Dilemma

Meta processes European data in US data centres, including the data of Instagram and Facebook users. According to US laws, intelligence agencies must be able to access data stored on US soil. According to the GDPR, US intelligence agencies must be blocked from accessing European data. That’s a dilemma. It’s difficult to exchange data between the US and EU without breaking laws on one of the continents.

The US and EU used to have a treaty called Privacy Shield. Data transfers weren’t as much of an issue. The Privacy Shield was abolished in 2020. International data transfers became more difficult, but remained viable. Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) are a set of strict security conditions. Organizations that meet the conditions are allowed transfers. Meta has worked with SCCs for the past two years to process European data in the US.

Meta’s European headquarters is located in Ireland. Resultingly, the organization is supervized by the Irish privacy authority. The authority is unhappy with the use of SCCs. According to the authority, data transfers between the EU and US remain a violation of the AVG/GDPR, even when an organization complies with SCCs.

Slim chances

The Irish privacy authority cannot change laws on a whim. All European privacy authorities collaborate under the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). The EDPB must agree to the proposal. The members have one month to respond. From there, Ireland can ban Meta’s data transfers.

Meta claims that SCCs are the only way to offer Instagram and Facebook in Europe at this time. If the proposal is greenlit, there’s a chance that Meta shuts down the platforms in Europe. That chance, however, is small. The EU and US are working on a new treaty. Brussels and Washington are negotiating new rules for legal data transfers between the continents.

The implementation date is unknown. We suspect that the Irish privacy authority is trying to speed up the process. A definitive ban on data transfers pressures on the political top. If large organiszations threaten to leave, the treaty can no longer be postponed.

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