Irish judge denies request to investigate Facebook's NSA ties

A group of Europe-based Facebook users had asked an Ireland-based judge to investigate the social network's relationship with the NSA. It didn't work out.

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A High Court judge in Ireland has ruled that Facebook should not be investigated for alleged activities related to the sharing of user data with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

High Court Justice Gerard Hogan ruled Wednesday that Facebook won't need to face an investigation into its alleged activities, following a ruling made by Ireland's data protection commissioner who said the same. The commissioner argued that while Facebook users have the right to know what's happening with their data, there's no reason to hold an investigation into whether any of it was shared with the NSA.

Facebook is among several companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Skype, that have been charged by a group in Europe known as "Europe-v-Facebook (EVF)" with allegedly working with the NSA to provide data on their European users.

In January, the group filed lawsuits against the companies, arguing that the European Union's privacy laws fly in the face of data-sharing with the EU. More specifically, the group called on an "adequate level of protection" clause in Europe that would allow companies to share data with foreign governments only if the highest possible level of privacy was maintained.

The group was specifically concerned with the NSA's PRISM program, revealed last year through documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which allowed the NSA to cull and monitor data from companies operating servers in the United States.

Facebook and the other companies have argued that they're not actively cooperating with the NSA. The argument runs that while the NSA may have the ability to collect data from the companies' servers, it's only on an ad hoc basis and the companies do not provide unfettered access to their servers.

Ireland is likely to be a hotbed of lawsuit activity related to whatever connection may exist between the companies and the NSA. Most of the companies cited in the PRISM revelation have subsidiaries in Ireland to help with their tax liabilities. That makes Ireland the go-to location for all lawsuit matters initially.

Even after Wednesday's setback, the EVF isn't done. The organization said in a statement that it would appeal the court's decision and take it to a higher court in the EU.

CNET has contacted Facebook for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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