Facebook has launched legal action against the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) in an attempt to halt a proposed order that could stop the company from transferring data from the European Union to the US.

The US social media giant urged regulators "to adopt a pragmatic and proportionate approach until a sustainable long-term solution can be reached," a company representative said in a statement.

The DPC, Facebook's lead regulator in the EU, had started an inquiry into the company controlled EU-US data transfers.

It also suggested that a key mechanism used by the company for transatlantic data transfers cannot in practice be used for EU-US data transfers, Facebook said earlier this week.

Facebook had said that it believed the mechanism, Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs), had been deemed valid by the Court of Justice of the European Union in July.

The Irish regulator has declined to comment.

It is understood that the social media company is of the view that with further regulatory guidance expected on the fallout from the court decision, it is premature for the DPC to have reached a preliminary conclusion at this stage and have applied to seek judicial review of their approach. 

"A trend towards data localization has really impacted data privacy in 2020, but it was up to this point a 'calm before the storm' situation," said Cillian Kieran, privacy expert and CEO of privacy company Ethyca.

"The DPC's decision is the thunderclap, make no mistake about it."

"A halt on Facebook's ability to transfer data back to the United States would have massive business and symbolic impact. If Facebook's appeal is quashed and the Irish DPC follows through on the notice, I believe you’ll see US lawmakers scramble to reinstate better adequacy between US and EU data protections – although in this case "scramble" could still be a timeframe of a few years."

Mr Kieran added that a move like this could speed up progress on a US federal privacy law as major platforms will be "brought to their knees" if trans-Atlantic data transfers are shut down.