European companies may have to review their widespread practice of storing digital data with US internet companies after a court accused America’s intelligence services of conducting “mass, indiscriminate surveillance”.
The influential opinion by the European court of justice’s advocate general, Yves Bot, yet to be confirmed by the Luxembourg court as final, is a significant development in the battle over online privacy. The court normally follows the advocate general’s opinion; ECJ judgments are binding on EU countries.
The finding is a fresh victory for the Austrian campaigner Maximilian Schrems, who initially brought a claim against Facebook in Ireland in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The opinion by Bot contains far-reaching recommendations that threaten to upend many current commercial practices and assumptions in the digital industry.
If any EU country considers that transferring data to servers abroad undermines the protection of citizens, the advocate general’s finding said, it has the power to suspend that transfer “irrespective of the general assessment made by the [EU] commission in its decision”.
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