Companies need clarity on what they can do with EU-US data transfers in light of the European Court of Justice's decision to strike down previous arrangements, Facebook’s head of global affairs has said.

Nick Clegg said there should be time given for a new arrangement to be established - and an effort made to explain what firms can do in the mean-time.

Speaking on a web conference with Ibec’s Danny McCoy, Mr Clegg said transferring data was no longer the preserve of technology companies, but a common practice for every type of business.

He said he was concerned that legal rulings could see Europe "stumble towards a place where we make those data transfers considerably harder.

"We need to be cognisant that the data-driven intangible world has grown," he said. "The distinction between the tangible and intangible world is increasingly difficult to make."

Earlier this year the ECJ ruled that the framework that allowed for data to be transferred between the EU and US - known as Privacy Shield - was invalid as it did not sufficiently protect the data of European citizens.

It ruled that another method of data transfer, Standard Contract Clauses, were valid once data protection commissioners and the companies that use them can ensure that third countries are able to enforce the data protections the contracts contain.

Mr Clegg said many Irish firms would likely have been planning to use SCCs for their UK data transfers following Brexit, however there was now a degree of legal uncertainty around their use.

Facebook 'welcomes regulation’

However Mr Clegg said that his company did welcome moves towards better regulation.

On the issue of content moderation, Mr Clegg said that he did not think it was right for Silicon Valley-based companies like Facebook to be the ones deciding what is and is not allowed to be published on social media platforms.

He said it was not healthy for private companies to be making what are often highly fraught and contentious decisions, and it should be done by democratic governments instead.

He welcomed Irish plans for an online safety commissioner, as well as planned regulation around online content, hate speech and hate crimes.However he said Facebook did have issues with some of the plans - particularly any attempt to set a time limit on how quickly companies like his would have to remove offending content.

He said the focus should instead be tackling the most dangerous content immediately, before it has a chance to go viral.

He also said he understood why there was increasingly calls for Facebook’s dominance of social media to be tackled, for example through a forced breaking up of the firm.

However he said data was not the same as a traditional resources like oil and splitting the firm would not address the underlying problems that exist at the moment.

EU Digital Single Market

Mr Clegg said that he felt one of the reasons the US and China have tended to lead on technology is because companies there have access to huge domestic markets, which make it easier for them to develop products.

He said, in Europe, there still tended to be many barriers for firms trying to roll their products and services out across the bloc - and he called on authorities to push to complete the creation of a digital single market here.

He said that attention can often be focused on new regulations around issues like privacy and data - but there is a risk that some of the hard, unglamorous work on the market itself can be overlooked.