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EU-US data ruling a ‘nightmare’: Wikipedia founder

A landmark ruling that deemed a key transatlantic data transfer agreement "invalid" has the potential to be a "nightmare" for technology companies, the founder of Wikipedia told CNBC.

The European Court of Justice, the European Union's (EU) top court, ruled that the Safe Harbour agreement – which allows European citizens' personal data to be transferred from the EU to the U.S., used by companies like Apple and Facebook – was "invalid".

It's a key agreement for thousands of companies operating in the 28-nation bloc as it allows them to send data collected from the EU to be used and stored in the U.S., where global companies like Google are based.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, said the regulatory issues that could come with this might be a problem for some businesses.

"You want your data to be secure, you don't really care or you shouldn't have to care where it sits," Wales told CNBC in an interview at IP EXPO Europe in London.


Clodagh Kilcoyne | Getty Images

"If I'm in Europe I hope they are near me on a server in Europe, but other than that I want them to provide the best technical experience for me. And if they suddenly have all those requirements and have to keep certain pictures in certain places, it just sounds like a nightmare, so I like the idea of uniformity in the law so that we can all not worry about it."

Wales added in a separate session with reporters that the ECJ ruling could lead to a "balkanized era where data has to be secure very specifically across many many different jurisdictions".


‘Hopeful’ on China

The Wikipedia founder also touched upon the online encyclopaedia's relationship with China, where the Chinese language version is currently unavailable. Wikipedia is still available in English and other languages in China. In a keynote speech at IP EXPO, Wales said that the Chinese government was censoring some of the pages on the site about political events which was against the company's principles.

"We argue that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right and that it would be inappropriate for us, given our mission to give free knowledge to all, to ever participate in government censorship," Wales said.

Still, in a separate interview with CNBC, the founder said that he is "hopeful" the Chinese language service will be up and running soon, adding that he has a meeting with the country's government to resolve the issue.