Ireland refuses to probe US firms

RAF Menwith Hill base, which provides communications and intelligence support services to the United Kingdom and the US (file photo)

An Ireland watchdog group has stated its refusal to probe major American corporate giants Apple and Facebook for transferring personal data to a US spy agency, arguing that they have signed up to EU privacy principles.

The Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) was challenged by an Austrian student activist group to investigate allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) collects emails and other private data from the European headquarters of the American firms in a mass electronic surveillance program known as Prism, Reuters reported Thursday.

The ODPC asserted the US firms were covered by ‘Safe Harbor’, a system that allows American companies to certify themselves as compliant with EU data protection law by merely signing up to a set of principles that would supposedly safeguard how personal data are used.

According to the report, the EU adopted Safe Harbor in 2000, seven years before the NSA, the largest US spy agency, began the Prism program that was leaked by its former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden last month.

“We do not consider that there are grounds for an investigation under the Irish Data Protection Acts given that ‘Safe Harbor’ requirements have been met,” the ODPC wrote to europe-v-facebook.

This is while founder of Europe-v-facebook Max Schrems says, “We have the impression that the ODPC is trying to simply ignore the complaints and the whole Prism scandal.”

The 25-year-old law student, the report adds, is also awaiting responses to legal complaints he has filed against Yahoo in Germany and Microsoft and Skype in Luxembourg.

Ireland, which has courted US businesses for decades and offers them attractive tax rates, is home to the European headquarters of a number of the largest American technology companies, including Microsoft and Google, which are also alleged to have cooperated with the Prism program, the report notes.

The US firms, which are restricted by law on what they can disclose about their involvement, claim they have not given direct access to their servers to any government agency, and have only provided user information in accordance with the law.

The Snowden affair has prompted questions about the effectiveness of Safe Harbor. The data protection commissioner for the German state of Bremen called on Wednesday for the European Commission to suspend it indefinitely in light of the “excessive surveillance by foreign secret services”.


Republished from: Press TV