Further EU restrictions on EU-US data transfers may make Facebook’s existence in Europe untenable, the company has claimed.

Facebook and its subsidiaries operate a user portfolio of around 410 million and if EU regulators proceed to put limitations on what data it sends to the US, the company threatened it may have to rethink its position in the EU.

Too big to leave

EU court gavel
– Thinkstock / Zebor

First reported by Ireland’s Business Post, Facebook’s reaction comes after receiving an order last week from the Data Protection Commission (DPC) to suspend personal data transfers between the EU and the US. The order follows a legal ruling by European courts to uphold Schrems II, a complaint into how EU user data was at risk of US surveillance.

As per the order, Facebook originally had until the end of the month to legally respond to the DPC's order or face fines. As a result, Facebook filed an affidavit requesting a Judicial Review into the order, which was accepted by the Irish High Court. In the document, Facebook outlined seven points surrounding how the DPC failed to justify the order and argued it should have more time to legally defend itself.

Yvonne Cunnane, Facebook Ireland’s head of data protection and associate general counsel, said: “In the event that [Facebook] were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users’ data to the US, as appears to be what the DPC proposes, it is not clear to the applicant how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU.

“The consequences of this are likely to be significant and wide-ranging to the applicant and to the millions of individuals and businesses who use its services in Europe.”

Cunnane asked the High Court why only Facebook was targeted, and "why only three weeks was afforded for the Applicant to make submissions and why an extension of time for the Applicant to make submissions has been refused given the potentially serious consequences at stake?”

Due to the review, the Irish High Courts have agreed to grant an extension to the process. Facebook now has until November to get this decision overruled although the DPC can still challenge the review.