If the decisions of the Administrative Court are upheld, that would result in a system in which IT companies would simply have to make a group structure like Facebook, establishing a main office in an E.U. member state with a low level of data protection, in order to escape oversight, the ULD said. "This was not the intention of European Union regulation," it added.
This ruling is not the end of the line for the ULD though. It can appeal the decision within two weeks with the Administrative Court of Appeals of the State of Schleswig-Holstein, and will certainly do so, the regulator said. The ULD expects the litigation to take months or even years to finish.
"We are pleased with the decision of the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein. We believe this is a step into the right direction," said Facebook in an emailed statement. "We hope that our critics will understand that it is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law." For Facebook Ireland, the company said, the relevant laws are the European data protection directive and Irish law.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org