'Nothing to see here', says ECJ as Safe Harbour opinion delayed

Austrian angry, no explanations given, rumour mill in overdrive

Sources at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have denied there's a conspiracy behind the publication delay of a crucial opinion in the Europe v Facebook case.

The ECJ attorney general (AG) was due to give his opinion on 24 June, a decision which could potentially bring down the Safe Harbour dataflow agreement between the EU and the US.

Because the US does not generally meet EU standards for privacy, the safe harbour workaround was dreamt up by the Commission in 2000. The deal created a voluntary framework whereby companies promise to protect European citizens’ data.

In the current case, a group called Europe v Facebook – led by “Angry AustrianTM Max Schrems – alleges that Facebook violated fundamental European rights by transferring personal user data to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The Snowden revelations last year also undermined trust in the agreement so significantly that the European Parliament has called for it to be suspended.

Instead, however, the European Commission is trying to renegotiate certain aspects of it, including getting judicial redress rights for European citizens equivalent to those enjoyed by Americans.

Last week, the Commissioner responsible, Vera Jourova, said that although “solid commitments on the commercial aspects” had been achieved, “work still needs to continue as far as national security exemptions are concerned”.

The Brussels rumour-mill suggests that the AG opinion is being deliberately delayed in order for the EU and US negotiators to reach a deal.

Schrems told El Reg that he had received no explanation for the delay. It is uncommon, but not unheard of, for opinion deadlines to be missed. The ECJ is keen to quash the conspiracy rumours, but negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic are racing against the clock.

The ECJ Press service said no new date had been set for the opinion. ®

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