UK citizen wins legal round against Facebook over Prism leaks

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UK citizen wins legal round against Facebook over Prism leaks

Fiona O’Cleirigh

A British citizen has applied for a judgement against Facebook after the company failed to file a defence in a case that will test the right of technology companies to disclose personal data on UK residents to the US National Security Agency.

Kevin Cahill, a journalist, claimed in documents filed in the Mayors and City of London County Court that disclosures by Facebook put it in breach of the British Data Protection Act (DPA).

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Cahill, who believes Facebook may have released his personal data in breach of UK law, is seeking £1,000 in damages from the company.

The action follows revelations by Edward Snowden that American social media companies have been sending foreign users’ private communications to the US electronic spying organisation. The programme, known as Prism, is enforced by top secret US court orders.

Cahill has asked the court to issue an order requiring Facebook to “disclose the authority or order on which it based the removal of data from the United Kingdom”.

He is seeking a second order to require the social media company to “desist from any further breaches of the Data Protection Act", both generally and specifically in relation to his own data.

Facebook, which did not acknowledge or contest the claim, has declined to comment.

The other contributors to the Prism programme were named in the Snowden documents as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

Cahill has also brought actions against Microsoft UK and Google UK. Microsoft has opted to contest the case. Google has until 25 December to reply to the claim. 

Cahill said he was pleased with the outcome of his Facebook challenge. “There is no excuse whatever for any foreign companies to break the law here by stealing personal data. If you trade in the UK, you obey UK law.” 

Separately, a group calling itself Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking has brought an action against Google in the High Court.  

It claims that the company breached the DPA by bypassing security settings through installing tracker cookies on users’ machines, as part of a data trawl.  

Google insists that it does not fall within British jurisdiction and has asked for the Safari case to be thrown out.

This week, a US federal judge ruled that the collection of metadata under the Prism programme may be a violation of the fourth amendment of the US Constitution. 

This requires search warrants to be based on "probable cause", and prohibits unreasonable searches. 

The judge, who declared the scale of Prism to be "almost Orwellian", also demanded that the White House release its anticipated surveillance review report ahead of schedule.


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