Nov. 1, 2020

Newsletter MAFR - Law, Compliance, Regulation

Full reference: Frison-Roche, M.-A., Due process and Personal Data Compliance Law: same rules, one Goal (CJEU, Order, October 29, 2020, Facebook Ireland Ltd v/ E.C.)Newsletter MAFR - Law, Compliance, Regulation, 1st of November 2020

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Read Marie-Anne Frison-Roche's interview in Actu-juridiques about this decision (in French)

 

Summary of the news: 

As part of a procedure initiated for anti-competitive behaviors, the European Commission has three times requested, between the 13th of March and the 11th of November 2019, from Facebook the communication of information, reitarated in a decision in May 2020.  

Facebook contests it alleging that the requested documents would contain sensitive personal information that a transmission to the Commission would make accessible to a too broad number of observers, while "the documents requested under the contested decision were identified on the basis of wideranging search terms, (...) there is strong likelihood that many of those documents will not be necessary for the purposes of the Commission’s investigation". 

The contestation therefore evokes the violation of the principles of necessity and proportionality but also of due process because these probatory elements are collected without any protection and used afterwards. Moreover, Facebook invokes what would be the violation of a right to the respect of personal data of its employees whose the emails are transferred. 

The court reminds that the office of the judge is here constraint by the condition of emergency to adopt a temporary measure, acceptable by the way only if there is an imminent and irreversible damage. It underlines that public authorities benefit of a presumption of legality when they act and can obtain and use personal data since this is necessary to their function of public interest. Many allegations of Facebook are rejected as being hypothetical. 

But the Court analyzes the integrality of the evoked principles with regards with the very concrete case. But, crossing these principles and rights in question, the Court estimates that the European Commission did not respect the principle of necessity and proportionality concerning employees' very sensitive data, these demands broadening the circle of information without necessity and in a disproportionate way, since the information is very sensitive (like employees' health, political opinions of third parties, etc.). 

It is therefore appropriate to distinguish among the mass of required documents, for which the same guarantee must be given in a technique of communication than in a technic of inspection, those which are transferable without additional precaution and those which must be subject to an "alternative procedure" because of their nature of very sensitive personal data. 

This "alternative procedure" will take the shape of an examination of documents considered by Facebook as very sensitive and that it will communicate on a separate electronic support, by European Commission's agents, that we cannot a priori suspect to hijack law. This examination will take place in a "virtual data room" with Facebook's attorneys. In case of disagreement between Facebook and the investigators, the dispute could be solved by the director of information, communication and medias of the Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission. 

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We can draw three lessons from this ordinance: 

  1. This decision shows that Procedural Law and Compliance Law are not opposed. Some often say that Compliance guarantees the efficacy and that Procedure guarantees fundamental rights, the protection of the one must result in the diminution of the guarantee of the other. It is false. As this decision shows it, through the key notion of sensitive personal data protection (heart of Compliance Law) and the care for procedure (equivalence between communication and inspection procedures; contradictory organization of the examination of sensitive personal data), we see once again that two branches of Law express the same care, have the same objective: protecting people. 
  2. The judge is able to immediately find an operational solution, proposing "an alternative procedure" axed around the principle of contradictory and conciliating Commision's and Facebook's interests has shown that it was able to bring alternative solutions to the one it suspends the execution, appropriate solution to the situation and which equilibrate the interest of both parties. 
  3. The best Ex Ante is the one which anticipate the Ex Post by the pre-constitution of evidence. Thus the firm must be able to prove later the concern that it had for human rights, here of employees, to not being exposed to sanctioning pubic authorities. This Ex Ante probatory culture is required not only from firms but also from public authorities which also have to give justification of their action. 

 

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Sept. 9, 2020

Newsletter MAFR - Law, Compliance, Regulation

Full reference: Frison-Roche, M.-A., Freedom&Media: when Italian Media Regulation's real "goal"​ is not Pluralism Protection, Freedom of Establishment prevails (CJEU, 3 Sept.2020,Vivendi)Newsletter MAFR - Law, Regulation, Compliance, 9th of September 2020

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Summary of the news

The media sector is organized on an equilibrium between the principle of competition and other concerns like information pluralism. Generally, competition Law by making market accessible to many competitors ensures information pluralism. But, this is not the case if an operator get an excessive market power, running risk not only for competition but also for information pluralism. It is the reason why the Italian legal system forbids the constitution of an operator gathering more than 40% of the total income generated by the media sector or more than 10% of the total income generated by the Italian communication sector. 

In 2016, Vivendi, a French media group, got more than 28% of the Mediaset Group's actions and around 30% of its voting right. The Italian communication regulation authority sized by Mediaset demands in 2017 to Vivendi to ends its participations in the group Mediaset. Vivendi contested this decision before the regional administrative court which referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union in order to know if freedom of establishment can legitimately be discarded in favor of information pluralism in this concrete case. The Court of Justice answered, in a decision of 3rd of September 2020, that the restriction of the freedom of establishment can in principle be justified by a general interest objective such as information pluralism protection but that in this concrete case, this is not justified because the fact that a firm is committed in the transmission of contents does not necessarily give it the power to control the production of such contents.

We can learn three lessons form this case:

  1. The Court precises that even if the principle is the freedom of establishment, it is possible to discard it to protect information pluralism protection under the condition that the concerned member State do not use this legitimate power to create a political monopoly, the burden of proof falling on the person attacking national legislation and not on the Member State.
  2. The Court distinguishes transmission of contents and production of contents and explains that if the State rejects this decision, the burden falling to it to prove the concrete links between these two activities.
  3. This case shows that the power to share the respective places of the "principle" and of the "exception" always comes back to the judges. 

June 27, 2018

Thesaurus : Doctrine

Référence complète : Potvin-Solis., L., Le dialogue entre la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme et la Cour de justice de l'Union européenne dans dans la garantie des droits fondamentaux, in  Mélanges en l'honneur de Frédéric Sudre, Les droits de l'homme à la croisée des droits, LexisNexis, 2018, pp. 591-602.

 

 

Lire une présentation générale de l'ouvrage.

 

 

 

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