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Irish Privacy Regulator Concedes Must Investigate Facebook Data

FILE - Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through glasses held by a woman.

Ireland's privacy regulator conceded on Tuesday that it should investigate Facebook Inc.'s transfers of data to the United States following a legal challenge mounted by an Austrian law student against its initial refusal to do so.

Max Schrems challenged the transfers of European users' data after revelations in 2013 of the U.S. government's Prism program, which allowed U.S. authorities to harvest private information directly. He filed his complaint in Ireland because Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin.

An Irish High Court judge last year referred the complaint to the European Union's highest court, asking if national authorities could suspend data transfers if they concluded that privacy safeguards in the destination country were not sufficient.

The European Court of Justice responded two weeks ago, delivering a landmark ruling that declared invalid a system used by thousands of U.S. and European companies to transfer personal data to the United States, because of insufficient privacy protection there.

"We are consenting to the application that the decision be quashed," Paul Anthony McDermott, lawyer for the Irish Data Protection Commissioner told the High Court in Dublin. Facebook said it would "constructively engage" with any investigation.