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Covington Represents BSA in Landmark Data Protection Case Before Europe's Highest Court

July 9, 2019

BRUSSELSToday, a team of Covington lawyers argued before the European Court of Justice in a landmark data protection case, Case C-311/18, Data Protection Commissioner v Facebook Ireland and Maximillian Schrems (“Schrems II”). The case has significant ramifications for any organization that relies on the standard contractual clauses (“SCCs”) to transfer personal data from the EU to countries around the world. The importance of this case is underlined by the fact that it was heard in the Court’s Grand Chamber, before 15 judges from across Europe. 

Covington represents the Software Alliance (“BSA”) in Schrems II and in a second case of equal significance, on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. That case, Case T-738/16, La Quadrature du Net and Others v Commission (“LQDN”), is currently pending before the EU General Court. Both the Schrems II and LQDN cases could dramatically affect the global business community.

Under EU data protection law, organizations must comply with certain requirements when transferring personal data outside the EU. To satisfy these requirements, organizations generally rely on either the Commission-approved SCCs, or on “adequacy decisions” adopted by the Commission, such as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Adequacy decisions permit data to be transferred to specific jurisdictions; the SCCs, in contrast, can be used for transfers to any third country.

Were the Courts to strike down one or both of these mechanisms, or restrict their scope, that would significantly limit the ability of many organizations to transfer personal data from the EU to third countries. This would disrupt day-to-day business operations and major online consumer services.  

The main parties in the case are the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Facebook Ireland Limited, and Mr. Maximillian Schrems. Intervenors include BSA, EPIC, Digital Europe, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Data Protection Board, the U.S. Government, and several Member States.

The Covington team is led by partner Lisa Peets, and includes Brussels and London lawyers Kristof Van Quathem, Bart Van Vooren, Sam Jungyun Choi, and Gemma Nash.

 Covington BSA Team

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