Facebook Says EU Data Demands Included Risks to Staff’s Families
A pedestrian passes the entrance to the Facebook Inc. European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. (Photographer: Paulo Nunes dos Santos/Bloomberg)

Facebook Says EU Data Demands Included Risks to Staff’s Families

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Facebook Inc. accused the European Commission of demanding the disclosure of irrelevant data that included details of correspondence with bereaved staff and of security risks to key employees’ families.

The social network sued the European Commission in July, winning a temporary halt to officials’ demands to turn over internal documents that matched certain search terms. The alleged extent of regulator’s demands for information emerged in filings to the European Union’s General Court published in the EU’s Official Journal on Monday.

The EU has two early stage probes into Facebook’s classified ads service and its data practices. Regulators can require companies to give documents mentioning certain keywords under threat of fines.

The data sought by the EU included “correspondence of employees regarding medical issues; correspondence at times of bereavement; documents relating to personal property investments; job applications; internal appraisals; and documents assessing security risks to the family members of key Facebook personnel,” according to Facebook’s filings.

The U.S. tech giant is asking the court to curb the EU’s wide powers to demand and sift information from companies. Instead, it calls on the court to allow independent lawyers to review and exclude documents that are “manifestly irrelevant to the investigation and/or personal documents.”

An eventual ruling can be appealed to the EU’s top court, which could hobble and delay the investigations. Cement companies previously won a fight against an EU “fishing expedition” for a probe regulators had to close for lack of evidence.

The commission “will defend its case in court” and its “investigation into Facebook’s potential anticompetitive conduct is ongoing,” the EU antitrust authority said in an emailed statement.

Facebook pointed to a statement it made in July saying the “exceptionally broad nature of the commission’s requests means we would be required to turn over predominantly irrelevant documents that have nothing to do with the commission’s investigations, including highly sensitive personal information.”

The EU started examining Facebook’s sales platform and how it uses data from apps last summer, one of several cases scrutinizing whether internet firms play fair. It adds to a probe into how Amazon.com Inc. collects data from retailers through its platform and investigations into Apple Inc.’s App Store.

The cases are T-451/20 and T-452/20 Facebook Ireland v Commission.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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