The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg: Because the national data protection authorities got in each other's way, the judges had to decide
Photo: Arne Immanuel Bänsch / dpa
Success for Europe's data protectionists: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) basically gives them the right to act even if the headquarters of a company is in another EU country. In the long-running dispute, in particular between the Irish data protection authority and other countries, the court has thus shown a way how they can proceed against IT companies.
According to the General Data Protection Regulation, the principle of the “one stop shop” actually applies.
In German: Only a data protection authority monitors compliance with a company's data processing rules.
What German authorities allow should not be prohibited in Portugal, for example.
A particularly large number of companies from Silicon Valley have decided to have their headquarters in Ireland.
In addition to Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple have set up their European headquarters there.
However, the responsible data protection authority is repeatedly criticized for the backlog of unprocessed procedures.
Authority chief Helen Dixon is now even looking for a conflict with the European Parliament and in particular with the German Federal Data Protection Officer Ulrich Kelber.
Only one authority in charge?
The procedure decided on Tuesday concerned a data protection complaint by the Belgian data protection authority against Facebook from September 2015. The Belgian authority accused the company of not having adequately informed its users about the data it saves in their browser. But the group denied the sole competence of the Belgian authorities. They would have to make their decision together with their Irish colleagues. The Belgian judiciary then appealed to the European Court of Justice. The decision: the Belgians are allowed to continue the procedure. However, the national authorities do not have a free ticket. You may only bypass the actually competent authority in exceptional cases.
Bavaria's Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich (CSU) welcomed the decision: "The Internet giants will find it more difficult in future to evade effective control through a clever choice of location," said the politician.
This strengthens the rights of consumers, who are entitled to transparent rules and secure procedures for protecting their personal data.
The consumer lobby group BEUC also endorses the principles laid down by the court: “Most big tech companies are based in Ireland, and it should not be up to that country alone to protect 500 million consumers in the EU, especially if it is not up to the challenge «, commented BEUC General Director Monique Goyens.
But Facebook doesn't want to see the decision as a defeat either.
Jack Gilbert, Associate General Counsel of Facebook, said it was gratifying that the ECJ had confirmed the value and principles of the “one stop shop”.
The technology lobby group CCIA, on the other hand, objected that the ruling could lead to inconsistencies and higher costs if the exceptional cases envisaged by the court became the norm.
tmk / Reuters / dpa