When the Safe Harbor Agreement was enacted in 2000, Max Schrems was only 12 years old. For those unaware, Max Schrems is the 28 year old PhD law student and Austrian activist that complained about his Facebook data being handled insufficently. After Schrem’s argument, a judge in the EU invalidated the 15 year old agreement. Now, PCWorld says he has filed 2 new complaints with the Belgian Privacy Commission, and the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Commissioner, located in Hamburg, Germany.
In 2013, the now famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, revealed the US National Security Agency’s PRISM program, much to the chagrin of the US government. That program showed that Facebook was one of the Safe Harbor participants and it was able to supercede the privacy laws. Though Facebook used vague statements to deny this, the truth was already leaked. Finding out this information was alarming to many, including Schrems.
That is when he filed the original complaint to the privacy commissioner in Ireland. Once they dismissed his argument, he appealed to the High Court of Ireland. He was then referred to the Court of Justice in the EU. At that point, the court agreed with him and in October of 2015, the Safe Harbor agreement was invalidated. The 2 new complaints make the same points, by trying to demonstrate that there is no way to have Facebook Ireland or the parent company, located in the US, protect his privacy in a manner consistent with the EU Law.
This matter becomes a slippery slope when dealing with companies that operate internationally. Facebook has stated repeatedly that they were not concerned with the ruling. That is because they rely on other avenues to export the user’s information. Just as with the orignal denials, Facebook is not offering specifics. Perhaps they do not want to give out any information that may be challenged.
It is safe to say that Max Schrems has a promising career as a lawyer. Anyone that can successfully argue a point like this and get the type of result that he accomplished, is destined for great things. Whether or not he becomes a privacy crusader remains to be seen. Until that point, he is doing quite well at being a thorn in the side of some governments. Much like Edward Snowden, you can bet that he is not well liked by the US government. The difference, however, is Max Schrems would not be arrested for entering the USA.