July 28, 2020 / 10:01 AM / 16 days ago

Facebook gains temporary court reprieve on EU antitrust data demand

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Facebook (FB.O) has won the first round of its court battle against what it says are excessive demands from European Union antitrust regulators after Europe’s second-top court temporarily halted such requests until it makes a final ruling.

The U.S. social media group is being investigated by the European Commission for its trove of data and online marketplace, which may lead to hefty fines and orders to change its business practices.

Facebook on July 15 sued the EU competition enforcer at the Luxembourg-based General Court, saying that the Commission was seeking information beyond what is necessary, including highly personal details.

It also asked for interim measures to stop a May 4 information request. Failure to comply could expose it to a daily penalty payment of 8 million euros (7.2 million pounds).

The Court in a judgment dated July 24 suspended the EU request while waiting for the Commission’s comment and its ruling on Facebook’s application for interim relief.

It said such a move would “prevent a situation whereby the contested material is disclosed in violation of the fundamental right to privacy of the applicant’s management and employees, depriving of any effect any order for interim measures that may eventually be granted”.

EU regulators are trawling documents looking for about 2,500 search phrases which include “big question”, “shut down” and “not good for us”, and which could be found in employees’ health information or even job applications, said a person familiar with the matter.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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