Facebook given 4 weeks to respond to "largest privacy class action in Europe"

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy

Scales image courtesy of ShutterstockAustrian law student Max Schrems has won the first round in his class action lawsuit against Facebook over online privacy.

After an initial hearing yesterday, Austria's Vienna Regional Court gave Facebook Ireland four weeks to respond, though it can ask the court for an extension of an additional four weeks if required.

Speaking after the decision, Mr Schrems said:

The order is very likely on the way to Facebook via registered mail. The first step in the legal procedure is hereby taken.

He also explained how the court could pass judgement in absence if Facebook Ireland failed to submit a counter-statement within the allowed timescale.

Schrems revealed that 25,000 users from outside of the US and Canada have signed up to support the case, subject to review by his legal team. This, he says, makes it "the largest privacy class action in Europe."

A further 35,000 Facebook users have registered their support via www.fbclaim.com and await a decision from lawyers as to whether the case can be expanded to include their claims.

Facebook v Europe said it had to cap the number of claimants to 25,000 for logistical reasons, Schrems said.

With this number of participants we have a great basis, to stop complaining about privacy violations and actually do something about it. If we are successful, the outcome will of course have a positive impact on all users.

Schrems and the other members of the class action lawsuit are seeking damages of €500 each ($664/£400) for alleged data violations by Facebook - including the unauthorised use of data, supporting NSA spying, tracking users on external websites and passing on user data to third-party companies and apps without authorisation.

The action is being taken against Facebook Ireland for jurisdictional reasons – Dublin is the European HQ for the New York-based social network.

Mr Schrems has been challenging Facebook over its use of data for some time now and currently has more than 20 active complaints lodged with the Irish Data Protection Commission.

The most high profile of those complaints is based around the social network's relationship to the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its PRISM programme.

In a recent landmark case, Schrems' claimed that Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes had misinterpreted and applied the law when challenged over the transfer of Facebook user data to the NSA.

High Court Justice Gerard Hogan, however, ruled that Schrems was entitled to protest over data being shared with an organisation that was not entirely compatible with the Irish constitutional views on privacy, regardless of whether he could prove his own data had been spied upon or not.

The case was subsequently escalated to the European Court of Justice.


Image of scales courtesy of Shutterstock.

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4 Responses to Facebook given 4 weeks to respond to "largest privacy class action in Europe"

  1. Waste Of Time · 371 days ago

    Why is this even being looked at in the courts? I always think of it as someone living in a house, full of cameras monitoring your every move, for free and then complaining about the monitoring.

    It is a free service which, I would hope everyone knows by now, means YOU are the product and as such you should have no expectations of privacy. Your information will be sold, traded, and used by world+dog, this includes government agencies as well as advertisers. If you do not like it then stop using free services and start using paid for services where you do have an expectation of privacy.

    • kp · 371 days ago

      Because Facebook's gone from being just another free product to a large part of people's online presence. The bigger you get as a company, the more responsible you are. The kind of "to hell with it" ethics is great if we're talking about a small-scale social network. Facebook passed that a long ways ago.

      • Waste of Time · 368 days ago

        But it is still FREE and no one is twisting peoples arms to post selfies on their page. Just because it has a bigger user base doesn't mean it should have different rules than a smaller company.

        Why have different standards for big and small companies when the information is the same (your personal info)?

        It should be protected in the same way and never sold/traded/given away. Privacy should be universal and should apply to all businesses, big and small.

    • LonerVamp · 368 days ago

      European privacy laws are quite different from ours in the US. In fact, they favor individuals over corporations. So yes, the courts should be looking at this, from a European perspective.

      More power to 'em!

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About the author

Lee Munson is the founder of Security FAQs, a social media manager with BH Consulting and a blogger with a huge passion for information security.