ECJ Meta IRE Documents Disclosure

On May 24, ECJ issued General Court judgment in case T-451/20.

  • ECJ announced action brought by Meta (Facebook group) against EC request seeking disclosure of documents identified by means of search terms was dismissed entirely.
  • Meta has not successfully demonstrated request to provide documents to be identified by search terms went beyond what was necessary.
  • Nor that virtual data room failed to ensure sensitive data was sufficiently protected.
  • Key Aspects
  • Per suspicions of anticompetitive behaviour by Facebook group in its use of data and in management of its social network platform the EC issued decision of May 4, 2020.
  • Requesting information from Meta Platforms Ireland, formerly Facebook Ireland Ltd.
  • Decision adopted pursuant to Art 18(3) of Reg 1/2003 required Meta to provide all documents prepared or received by 3 of its executives within the period concerned.
  • Those contained one or more of the search terms defined in the annexes; decision provided for potential fine of €8 million per day in the event of failure to comply.
  • In Jul 2020, filed action for annulment of decision, application for interim measures.
  • More details are provided on the said measures and the underlying facts of the case.
  • Main Aspects
  • Court considered that overall assessment of compliance with principle of necessity set out in Art 18 of Reg 1/2003 is not appropriate in present case, even if it were possible.
  • Fact that certain search terms may, as Meta submitted, be too vague has no bearing on fact that other search terms may be sufficiently precise/targeted to enable finding.
  • May aid EC determine if infringement of competition rules has taken place, established.
  • Only search terms specifically challenged by Meta Platforms Ireland may be reviewed as to whether the principle of necessity has been observed.
  • Other search terms regarded as having been defined in accordance with that principle.
  • Court confirmed information request per Art 18(3) is appropriate measure to attain general interest goals pursued by EC i.e. maintenance of competition system per TFEU.
  • Sensitive Data and Processing
  • Observed it is not disputed certain documents requested contained sensitive personal data capable of falling within data referred to in art 9 GDPR, art 10 of Reg 2018/1725.
  • Ability to undertake processing is subject to 3 conditions: processing must pursue a significant public interest with its basis in EU law; must be necessary to fulfil that goal.
  • EU law must be proportionate to aim pursued, respect right to data protection essence
  • Provide suitable, specific measures to safeguard rights, interests of the data subject.
  • Contested decision does not go beyond what necessary to achieve objectives pursued.
  • Request is appropriate measure, processing of personal data entailed also necessary.
  • Referring to arrangements for transmission, consultation, evaluation, anonymization of Protected Documents, Court considered third condition is also satisfied in present case.
  • Virtual Data Room
  • Established contested decision, laying down virtual data room procedure, does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of general interest pursued by EC.
  • Court found disadvantages involved in procedure not disproportionate to aims pursued.
  • Impediment to right to privacy caused by contested decision satisfies the conditions of Art 52(1) of EU Charter so rejected complaints alleging infringement of Art 7 Charter.
  • Since other pleas in law raised by Meta also proved unfounded, Court dismissed action.

Regulators ECJ; Lawsuit
Entity Types CNSM; Corp
Reference LR, PR 83/2023, 5/24/2023; Case T-451/20; Reg 1/2003; GDPR Reg 206/679; Reg 2018/1725; TFEU
Functions Compliance; Legal; Operations; Privacy; Product Administration; Risk; Technology
Countries European Union
Category National Regulator
Products Corporate
Regions EMEA
Rule Type Enforcement
Rule Date 5/24/2023
Effective Date 5/24/2023
Rule Id 173625
Linked to N/A
Reg. Last Update 5/24/2023
Report Section AML & Enforcement

Last substantive update on 05/25/2023