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Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection requests legal brief by European Commission in Microsoft case

Dara Murphy T.D., Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection has today written to the European Commission requesting it to submit observations in a US court case that raises important issues about the interface between EU and US law on data protection.

Speaking in Brussels, Minister Murphy said:

“A case involving Microsoft that is currently before the US courts has raised important issues between the respective legal regimes in the European Union and the United States, particularly in relation to the protection of personal data.

The case in question has given rise to a degree of legal uncertainty and the outcome could have potentially serious implications for data protection in the EU.

By seeking direct access to data held in the EU through the US judicial system, existing legal mechanisms for mutual assistance between jurisdictions may be being effectively bypassed. There are fundamental issues at stake here as regards the protection of personal data that is held within the European Union.

This is clearly an area where technological advances have taken place in a very rapid fashion. The right to privacy should be afforded maximum protection whilst ensuring that law enforcement agencies have the necessary mechanisms at their disposal to effectively fight serious crime.

This is made ever more complex when different juridictions are involved, especially given the ease with which data can be transferred. It is within this context, that I urge the Commission to consider the arguments that Microsoft are making with respect to this case.

Ireland, the EU and the US have excellent relations with respect to cooperation on criminal matters. Our ambition to prevent, detect and prosecute crime is unwarvering. However, when it comes to the transfer of personal data, it is vital that we get the process right.”