Privacy group files ‘class action’ suit against Facebook in Austrian court

Europe-v-Facebook says the social media giant committed ‘basic or obvious violations of the law’

Europeans are serious about their Internet privacy — just ask Google. Now, it’s Facebook facing online privacy challenges in European court, thanks to a privacy campaign group called Europe-v-Facebook.

Austrian citizen Max Schrems, head of Europe-v-Facebook, filed a proposed “class action” lawsuit against Facebook on August 1 in a Vienna court. The group claims in the suit Facebook committed “basic or obvious violations of the law” through its privacy policy, its participation in American National Security Agency (NSA) data collection tactics, non-compliance with data access requests, and other measures.

 Schrems’ suit names Facebook Ireland as a plaintiff, but the case will be tried in Austrian court. According to EU law, citizens may always sue businesses in their home country.

And for this particular case, Austrian law may be at the heart of Schrems’ suit. Europe-v-Facebook intends to make the case a “class action” suit, and the group has set up website FBclaim.com in order for EU citizens to register for the suit. However, Austria has no official class action law, so Schrems will be the only plaintiff, then distribute awards to all those participating in the suit following the decision.

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“The Austrian procedural law does not provide a US style ‘class action,’” the group wrote on FBclaim.com. “Because of this situation, a couple of smart lawyers had the idea to group claims by ‘assigning’ them to one person who can then sue on behalf of everyone else. The single plaintiff later redistributes the awarded amount. Under this system it is possible to file a ‘class action’ in Austria.”

The group seeks €500 (US$670) per each individual claim filed in the case. The group says that those wishing to participate in the case may file for free, as Schrems has retained ROLAND ProzessFinanz, a German legal financing provider, for the class action costs.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had to deal with Europe-v-Facebook. According to PC World, in 2012, the group filed complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) concerning Facebook’s privacy regulations. The DPC then conducted an audit of Facebook’s practices and recommended further actions by the company.

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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