Ireland will not investigate Facebook and Apple for handing over data to the NSA because the practice is “legal.” An Irish watchdog says a data protection agreement signed by the companies shields them from legal investigation.
An Austrian student activist group has challenged the Irish
Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) over data
handed over by Facebook and Apple. They want a probe into the
companies’ activities to assess their involvement in the NSA spy
The ODPC has said it will not conduct an investigation as both
companies signed a ‘Safe Harbor’ agreement. The accord means that
the companies qualify as compliant with EU data protection law.
"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 Austrian activist group europe-v-facebook.
"If something is agreed by the European Commission for the purpose of providing safeguards, that ticks a box under our jurisdiction," said an ODPC spokeswoman told Reuters. The safeguard agreements are in place to protect the private data of internet users.
In response to the ODPC’s statements, Max Schrems, the founder of europe-v-facebook said that the Irish authorities were trying to sweep the PRISM scandal under the rug.
Apple and Facebook maintain their innocence in the mass surveillance program which gathers citizen data through their servers. They claim the NSA intercepted the information without their knowledge.
The two internet giants’ involvement in PRISM has caused EU politicians to question the effectiveness of the ‘Safe Harbor’ agreement.
"The Safe Harbor agreement may not be so safe after all," said Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
The existence of PRISM was revealed by former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who is now wanted in the US on charges of espionage.
Following the disclosure of classified information that blew the whistle of the global spy program, Snowden fled Hong Kong, to which he had gone from the US. He is now holed up in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, waiting for the Russian government to process his request for temporary political asylum.
Moscow has confirmed that it will not hand the whistleblower over to Washington.