Wednesday 23 September 2020 2:16 pm

Facebook backtracks on pulling out of Europe over data laws

Facebook’s head of policy has said the company won’t be making its platforms inaccessible in the EU, despite reportedly making that argument to an Irish court as it battles new data transfer legislation.

The company was said to have told Ireland’s High Court it cannot see how its services could operate in the EU if regulators freeze its data transfer mechanism.

Facebook claimed last week the Irish data regulator has launched a preliminary investigation against the firm’s use of standard contractual clauses (SCCs), which it uses to transfer user data between Europe and the US.

Sir Nick Clegg told a policy event earlier this week that the firm has no intention to leave Europe any time soon.

“We of course won’t [stop operating in Europe], and the reason we won’t of course is precisely because we want to continue to serve customer and small and medium-sized businesses in Europe,” he said.

However he continued to warn that Facebook will be heavily impacted if politicians cannot find a consensus on how to safely conduct data transfers across borders.

A ruling passed down in Europe over the summer invalidated the flagship Privacy Shield data agreement, leaving businesses such as Facebook reliant on SCCs as an alternative method.

“We have a major issue, which is that for various complex, legal, political and other reasons, question marks are being raised about the current legal basis under which data transfers occur,” Clegg said during the debate.

“If those legal means of data transfer are removed — not by us, but by regulators — then of course that will have a profound effect on how, not just our services, but countless other companies operate. We’re trying to avoid that.”

Clegg added that the report regarding the court documents had been exaggerated, but that it was unlikely issues regarding data transfers between the EU and US are going to be solved until after a new administration enters the Oval Office.