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Supreme Court Dismisses Facebook Appeal on Transfer of Personal Data


On Friday 31 May 2019, the Irish Supreme Court dismissed Facebook’s appeal of the High Court decision to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), issues relating to the validity of US data transfers. The referral arose from High Court proceedings brought by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) in the course of dealing with data privacy complaints by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems. Mr Schrems claimed Facebook breached his personal data privacy rights in relation to data transfers to the US (as previously reported here). 

Whether there exists a right to appeal in relation to a referral decision was the main question before the Supreme Court. 

In its judgment, the Supreme Court said that while it can entertain an appeal against the facts found by the High Court and that any decision taken by it to overturn such facts would be binding on the High Court it cannot entertain ‘any appeal against the decision of the High Court to make a reference or against the terms of that reference’ because ‘as a matter of Union law, it is a matter for the High Court and that Court alone to determine whether it should, in light of the decision of this Court, continue with, amend or withdraw the reference.’ 

The Supreme Court said it is not appropriate to entertain an appeal ‘directly concerned with the analysis of the High Court leading to a decision by that Court to the effect that it shared the concerns of the DPC.’ It said that analysis which is inextricably linked with the decision to refer is not a matter which can properly be pursued on appeal.  

The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal put forward on behalf of Facebook and will not overturn any aspect of the High Court judgment. The case will now proceed to the CJEU on 9 July 2019. 

Contributed by: David Cullen and Sophie Dodd 




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