Austrian court passes on Facebook ‘class action’ privacy suit

Europe-v-Facebook founder Max Schrems. Image: Europe-v-Facebook
Max Schrems. Image: Europe-v-Facebook

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8 August 2014 | 0

A ‘class action’ suit against Facebook over its privacy policies was rejected by the commercial court of Vienna, and referred to the regional court in the same city, a commercial court spokesman said Friday.

“It is a claim that doesn’t belong at the commercial court but belongs at the regional court for civil cases,” the spokesman said, calling it a procedural decision.

The judge responsible for the case will now assess the merits of the case and determine if the regional court has the right jurisdiction, a spokeswoman for the regional court said. A decision to accept or reject the case will be made “as quickly as possible,” she said.

How long this will take is difficult to say at the moment because it is the middle of the summer holiday period, she said, adding that it should be a matter of days rather than weeks. If the court accepts the case, it has to serve notice on Facebook Ireland, which is the defendant in the case. This could take some time too, as the notice might have to be translated first, she added.

Max Schrems, a privacy campaigner and the front man of the Austrian group Europe-v-Facebook, announced last Friday that he sued Facebook Ireland, which is responsible for processing the data of users outside the US and Canada, at the commercial court in Vienna for violating EU privacy laws.

Being referred to another court “is not a big deal,” Schrems said. “To us it doesn’t really matter what court we end up in,” he said.

The privacy violations alleged by Schrems include the social network’s graph search, the use of Big Data systems that spy on users, and the company’s non-compliance with data access requests as well as the company’s privacy policy and its alleged participation in the Prism data collection program run by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Facebook users outside of the US and Canada were invited to join his claim, which they did in large numbers. On Wednesday the number of participants reached a self-set limit 25,000 Facebook users, each claiming €500 in damages, amounting to a total claim of €12.5 million. Users can still register on fbclaim.com and may be added to the case later. Over 20,000 additional Facebook users registered after the limit was reached, Europe-v-Facebook said Friday.

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