Privacy activist Schrems welcomes EU court decision on Facebook

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems on Thursday welcomed a decision by the European Union’s top court in his case against Facebook, saying the legal basis for more then 5,000 U.S. companies that use an EU tool to transfer Europeans’ personal data to the United States for commercial use has been annulled.

“It looks perfect,” he said in a spontaneous reaction when the ruling hit headlines at his office in Vienna.

Europe’s top court on Thursday rejected the so-called Privacy Shield agreement but upheld the validity of another tool used by hundreds of thousands of companies to transfer data worldwide.

The court’s decision on the Privacy Shield is based on “overreaching US surveillance laws that only protect U.S. persons but not foreigners,” non-profit Noyb, which Schrems chairs, said in a statement.

The privacy activist veteran, who took his first legal action against Facebook as a student in 2011, hopes that the ruling will, in the long term, lead to a reform of U.S. surveillance law.

For the companies themselves, these surveillance laws were a burden.

“The Court clarified for a second time now that there is a clash of EU privacy law and U.S. surveillance law,” Schrems said. As the EU would not change its fundamental rights, the only way to overcome this clash was for the U.S. to introduce solid privacy rights for all people including foreigners.

“Surveillance reform thereby becomes crucial for the business interests of Silicon Valley,” Schrems said.

U.S. concerns regarding American data outsourced to Beijing when people use Chinese technology such as Huawei [HWT.UL] or TikTok followed the same logic as the concerns he had raised in his complaint against Facebook, Schrems has said.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise