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Executive: Facebook won’t quit Europe over data rules

Brussels, Sep 22 (efe-epa).- Facebook is not contemplating a retreat from Europe, though it will have to make operational changes if the European Union enforces a ban on sharing EU users’ data with entities in the United States, the company’s head of global affairs and communications said Tuesday.

The US Internet giant has “absolutely no desire, no wish, no plans” to walk away from Europe, former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said during an online panel discussion organized by the European Business Summit.

In July, the European Court of Justice found that the existing EU-US data-privacy agreement is insufficient to safeguard the personal data of EU citizens from Washington’s intelligence agencies.

Because Facebook’s European unit is domiciled in Ireland, the Irish Data Protection Commission has responsibility for regulating the social network’s activity within the EU.

Last month, the data protection commissioner in Dublin moved to enforce the ECJ ruling, announcing a preliminary ban on Facebook data transfers from the EU to the US.

Facebook responded by submitting a brief to the Irish courts suggesting that the company could no longer function in the EU if the ban were imposed.

“In the event that (Facebook) were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users’ data to the US,” Yvonne Cunnane argued, “it is not clear how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU.”

The company said in a statement that the brief did not constitute a threat to stop doing business in Europe.

“Legal documents filed with the Irish high court set out the simple reality that Facebook, and many other businesses, organizations and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate their services,” the firm said.

Clegg said Tuesday that Facebook launched the legal action in Ireland with the aim of ensuring that it can remain in the European market.

“If those legal means of data transfer are removed, not by us, but by regulators, then of course that will have a profound effect not just on our services but on how countless other operators operate,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid that.”

Facebook is pursuing legal remedies “precisely because we want to continue to serve customers in Europe,” Clegg said.

The ruling by the Luxembourg-based ECJ also has implications for the European operations of Microsoft and Google. EFE cat/dr

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