Bizarre incident: The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection banned the Federal Government from operating its own Facebook fan page on 17 February 2023. The reason: the fan page is being operated without complying with the necessary data protection regulations. The data protection commissioner had already called on all other federal authorities last year to shut down their Facebook pages because of possible data protection violations.

Effects of the Schrems II ruling – also on public authorities

This ban has serious consequences for the Federal Press Office, which is responsible for the fan page. Possible penalties range from heavy fines to exclusion from using social media accounts in the future. Other federal authorities should therefore feel warned, as they have not yet complied with Kelber’s request to delete their own fan pages.

The reason for this ban is the Schrems II ruling, which also has implications for public authorities. The ruling was handed down when Austrian lawyer Max Schrems filed a complaint with the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection in 2013. He objected to Facebook’s policy of transferring personal data of EU citizens to servers outside the European Economic Area. According to Kelber, the data protection commissioner, the transfer of such data to countries with insufficient protection standards would be illegal under EU data protection law.

What the future holds

The hearing between the Federal Press Office and the Data Protection Commissioner is the first step in a lengthy process. There are no rigid or definitive deadlines, but as a rule, the Federal Data Protection Commissioner’s experts set a time period for the hearing, usually within a month. In this intensive process, both parties seek to reach a reasonable agreement with valid compromises and proposed solutions.

The future of the transatlantic data protection agreement is currently uncertain. The European Parliament’s LIBE Committee has published a draft motion for a resolution on the EU Commission’s adequacy decision on third country data transfers between the EU and the US. The European Parliament is critical of the equivalence of the level of protection for personal data in the US. It will therefore take some time before the issue of third-country data transfers to the USA is settled in this way. Until then, Facebook pages cannot be operated in a data protection-compliant manner according to the strict opinion of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection.

To the legal data interview with Max Schrems:

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