A new contract to promote the safe transfer of personal data of EU people to the United States may not enter into force in time to prevent a suspension of Facebook’s transatlantic data flows, according to the US company’s top European regulator on March 7.
Facebook’s owner, Meta, declined to comment on the likely timing of the regulator’s decision or the new pact’s entrance into place, despite its warning that a shutdown might compel it to discontinue Facebook services in Europe.
European Union authorities, lead by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon, are completing a ban on the legal instrument Facebook uses to transmit European user data due to concerns that U.S. spy agencies could gain access to them.
In an interview, Dixon stated that the restriction might go into effect by mid-May, although a new EU-US data protection agreement that would serve as an alternative basis for the transfers could take longer.
“There is undoubtedly a possibility for that. More than likely, I would say,” said Dixon, who is the chief European regulator for U.S. technology companies such as Apple, Google, and Twitter, whose regional offices are located in Ireland.
“Their timelines might be quite close, or the DPC’s suspension order could take effect beforehand,” Dixon told Reuters. Things are nearing their conclusion.
The suspension may set a precedent for other companies. Other European regulators must approve it by April 13, after which Dixon will have an additional month to give a judgement.
A representative for Meta stated that the firm “welcomes the work achieved by policymakers to ensure the continuing movement of data across borders and awaits the regulator’s ultimate conclusion on this topic.”
The new EU-US framework, which intends to provide EU residents with the same level of data protection as European law, may be ready by the summer, according to officials. Dixon stated, “They are still talking about July.”
It is anticipated to be challenged in court by critics who believe it is insufficient. EU’s highest court invalidated Safe Harbor and Privacy Shield, two earlier US-EU agreements.
Dixon stated that she and her fellow regulators were optimistic about the new agreement, and the European Commission was sure that it would withstand legal scrutiny.
Opponents, such as Max Schrems, a privacy advocate, have accused Dixon and her office of being under-resourced and overly lenient, an accusation she has refuted.
Dixon, whose office imposed nearly 1 billion euros in fines last year – over two-thirds of the fines levied in the EU and Britain combined last year – stated, “We are really finding our stride and working quickly.”
She stated that the organization is currently working on 22 international lawsuits, including those against Google, Meta, and TikTok, after concluding 17 cases last year.
It intends to boost its workforce to approximately 250 this year, up from 200 in 2015 and 27 when Dixon joined the company in 2014.
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