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Austrian student launches global class action against Facebook

Published time: August 02, 2014 20:02
Edited time: August 04, 2014 12:06
AFP Photo / Karen Bleier / Files

AFP Photo / Karen Bleier / Files

A law student from Austria has filed a class action law suit against Facebook over privacy violations, urging the social network’s 1.32 billion users around the globe to join him in his legal battle.

Max Schrems, who has sued Facebook and several other top US tech companies before, filed his newest claim at the commercial court in Vienna on Friday.

The legal proceeding will run as a class action because the Austrian law allows a group of people to transfer their financial claims to a single person – Schrems, in this case.

The student invited other internet users to take part in the action at www.fbclaim.com using their Facebook logins.

“Facebook has a long list of violations,”
Schrems wrote on Facebook Class Action website. “For this lawsuit we have chosen basic or obvious violations of the law: The privacy policy, participation in the PRISM program, Facebook’s graph search, apps on Facebook, tracking on other web pages (e.g. via the 'like buttons'), ‘big data’ systems that spy on users or the non-compliance with access requests.”

The Austrian, who is looking for injunctions under EU data-protection law, wants to receive damages of 500 euros per user for the above mentioned violations by the social network.

“Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection,” he said.

Law student Max Schrems briefs the media in Vienna (Reuters / Herwig Prammer)

The users aren’t risking any money by joining the case as a German legal financing provider will bear the legal costs if Schrems loses.

In case of victory the 26-year-old student will receive the same 500 euros as any other class action claimant.

However, US and Canadian users won’t be able to participate as the lawsuit is filed against Facebook Ireland, which runs all of the company’s operations outside North America.

“We have this habit of pointing the finger at the US, but we’re not enforcing our rights anyway,” Schrems told Reuters. “If we can get a class action through like this, it will send out a huge signal to the industry overall.”

The Austrian appealed to the Irish High Court to rule on allegations that US companies, including Microsoft, Google and Facebook, helped the NSA harvest private data from EU citizens.

However, the Irish judges referred the case to the European Court of Justice, which hasn’t reviewed it yet.

“There are serious reasons to suspect that the Irish authorities have deliberately not taken action against Facebook. Many observers assume that this was based on political reasons,”
Schrems wrote at Facebook Class Action website.

The Austrian court is in no way bound by any finding and decision made by the Irish authority, he added.

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