updated 02:54 pm EDT, Mon August 4, 2014
Lawsuit launched in Austrian court, points to privacy issues, violation of EU law
Law student Max Schrems has turned from filing complaints against Facebook's Irish subsidiary to filing a European lawsuit against the social media company for privacy violations. Schrems filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, asking people from outside the United States and Canada to join in. At the heart of the matter are violations Schrems and his group, Europe vs. Facebook, believe are against European data privacy laws.
According to TechCrunch, more than 11,000 people have signed up to take part in the class action suit filed in Vienna's commercial court Handelsgericht. Under European Union (EU) laws, consumers are allowed to file lawsuits against businesses from their home country. Schrems believes that the suit is better off in Austria, as it won't have to contend with bias from the Irish government due to IT industry pressures.
The suit is seeking other parties, which can sign up at the Facebook Claim website. Claims will need to be assigned to Schrems, as Austria's version of a class action suit differs from the way the United States treats them. One party takes on the case, then sues on the behalf of all claims assigned to them. Any awards are distributed afterward.
Photo: europe-v-facebook.org (c) 2011
"Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection," says Schrems.
Schrems believes that Facebook is guilty of number of violations against privacy standards in the EU. This includes a data policy that is invalid under current law, lack of consent to use many types of data, transferring data to external sources in an unauthorized manner, tracking Internet users through external websites, an unlawful introduction of the Graph Search feature, and analyzing and monitoring users through "big data" systems. Another claim is over Facebook's support of the PRISM surveillance program from the National Security Agency (NSA).
The damage threshold was set intentionally low, as the case is in a unique situation - as Facebook is headquartered in Califoria, the class-action suit must follow California law in some aspects. Only €500 ($670) is being sought for each user, but the ending amount will depend on the ruling, and number of people involved. European data protection laws and United States tort laws are both in effect for the case.
Facebook users in the United States and Canada are unable to join in on the lawsuit, as the agreement to use the service in those countries is with a different entity than the one the suit is aimed at, Facebook Ireland.