Austrian campaigner files class action suit against Facebook over privacy policy

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1 August 2014 | 0

Privacy campaign group Europe-v-Facebook is inviting Facebook users outside the US and Canada to join a lawsuit against the company, over claims it violates privacy laws.

Europe-v-Facebook’s founder Max Schrems filed suit with the commercial court in Vienna, Austria, where he lives, the group said Friday on a website devoted to the case, fbclaim.com.

Schrems sued Facebook Ireland, which is responsible for processing the data of users outside the US and Canada. Under EU law, consumers can always sue businesses at the relevant court of their home country. Moreover, the Austrian courts have reasonable fees compared to other countries, the group explained.

The suit accuses Facebook of “basic or obvious violations of the law,” the group said. The alleged violations include the company’s privacy policy; its alleged participation in the Prism data collection programme run by the US National Security Agency (NSA); its graph search; its tracking of users on third party websites; the use of Big Data systems that spy on users, and the company’s non-compliance with data access requests, the group said.

Austrian law doesn’t allow for the kind of class action lawsuit seen in the US, where it is possible for a group of people to collectively sue a company. However, it does allow interested parties to assign their claims to a single person, who can then sue on their behalf and redistribute any damages awarded, according to Europe-v-Facebook.

“Because it took a lot of effort to put this lawsuit together and there are many other people in the same position, it made sense to also invite other users to join the lawsuit,” the group said.

People who want to join the suit can fill in a form on fbclaim.com.

Schrems is suing Facebook for €500 in damages and unjust enrichment, and the group said on Twitter that every individual claim added to the suit will also be set to €500. “This is intentionally low because our main aim is to enforce our fundamental rights,” the group said. In similar cases courts have awarded higher amounts, ranging from €750 for minor violations up to a €2,000 in other cases, it said.

Closely related claims can be added to the original claim up until the last day of the hearing under Austrian procedural law, the group said.

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