Facebook faces privacy class action suit in Austria

Privacy campaigner Max Schrems leads a 25,000-strong class action lawsuit in Vienna against Facebook, claiming it breached European privacy law

Austrian law graduate and privacy campaigner Max Schrems is leading a 25,000-strong class action lawsuit in Vienna against Facebook for allegedly breaching European privacy laws.

Although Schrems limited the group to 25,000, a further 55,000 registered to join the proceedings after the initial call for applicants.

The group is suing the social networking firm for several privacy violations, including tracking their data and Facebook’s alleged involvement in the US National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance programme.

The case also claims that the way Facebook monitors users when they use the site's "like" buttons also breaches European privacy laws.

Schrems said they want Facebook to stop mass surveillance, to have a proper privacy policy that people can understand and to stop collecting data from people, including non-Facebook users, reports AFP.

More than 900 UK Facebook users back the case, which will be brought against the company at its European headquarters in Dublin.

The class action suit is claiming compensation of about €500 per person, reports the BBC.

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Privacy campaigner files parallel cases

Schrems is reportedly aiming to establish a landmark case against all US online companies that gather data in Europe.

However, the Vienna case is not the only chance of achieving that, because Schrems and his Europe-v-Facebook (EvF) advocacy group has also filed parallel complaints against Facebook in Ireland.

That case was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the high court in Dublin for a ruling on whether Ireland’s data protection commissioner is bound by the safe harbour agreement.

International online regulation

EvF is calling for an overhaul of the safe harbour agreement on data exchange, signed by the US and EU in 2000.

The case under consideration by the ECJ could decide how Europeans’ data will be shared with US internet firms in future.

Commentators said the ruling could shape international regulations on online information and affect all US companies dealing in Europeans’ data, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The ECJ is also expected to rule on whether an investigation should be launched into allegations by whistleblower Edward Snowden that Facebook passes personal data to the NSA.

At a hearing of the case in Luxembourg in March, the ECJ said it will issue is ruling on 24 June 2015.

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