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Facebook gains court backing in document row with EU regulators

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Facebook on Thursday won backing from Europe’s second-highest court in a row with EU antitrust regulators over what the U.S. company says are excessive demands for data after a judge set specific conditions for access to its documents.

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

The U.S. social media group challenged the European Commission at the Luxembourg-based General Court in July over its demands for access to documents in two investigations related to its trove of data and online marketplace.

Facebook alleged that EU antitrust regulators were seeking information beyond what was necessary, including highly personal details.

The General Court said Facebook will transmit requested documents related to its business activities to the European Commission.

“Those documents shall then be placed in a virtual data room which shall be accessible to as limited a number as possible of members of the team responsible for the investigation, in the presence (virtual or physical) of an equivalent number of Facebook Ireland’s lawyers,” Court President Marc van der Woude said.

Facebook, which said it has already provided more than a million documents to EU antitrust enforcers, welcomed the court ruling.

“We particularly welcome its assessment that highly personal and irrelevant information enjoy strong legal protections which need to be respected in the Commission’s ongoing investigation,” the company said in a statement.

In their trawl of Facebook documents, EU regulators focused on 2,500 search phrases which include “big question”, “shut down” and “not good for us”, and which could also be found in employees’ health information or even job applications, a person familiar with the matter has previously told Reuters.

Failure to comply with the regulators request for documents can lead to daily penalties of 8 million euros ($9.5 million).

The cases are T-451/20 R, T-452/20 R.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jon Boyle and Jane Merriman

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