Facebook class action finally heard

by Sam Jones15 Apr 2015
A civil court in Vienna heard the first hearing of a class action against Facebook last week.

The class action, launched by Austrian law student Max Schrems four years ago, is suing Facebook for alleged privacy violations including what Schrems has described as illegal tracking of data under EU law.

“Basically we are asking Facebook to stop mass surveillance, to (have) a proper privacy policy that people can understand, but also to stop collecting data of people that are not even Facebook users,” Schrems said.

The case has been brought against Facebook’s EU headquarters in Dublin, which is responsible for the registration of all Facebook accounts outside of the US and Canada, making up around 80 per cent of Facebook users.

The case will be heard in a civil court in Vienna and according to EU law, all member states have to enforce court rulings from other states.

News Corp reported last week that interest in the case had been overwhelming, attracting thousands of people since the suit was launched in August last year.

The 25,000 participants (and further 55,000 who have registered to join the proceedings at a later stage) are each claiming €500 in damages.

Schrems launched the suit after spending a semester abroad in Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, where became aware of the relaxed attitude towards European laws by American companies.

“We have privacy laws here in Europe but we are not enforcing (them),” he said. “The core issue is: do online companies have to stick to the rules or do they live somewhere in the Wild West where they can do whatever they want to do?”

Several complaints filed against Facebook in Dublin have been referred to the European Court of Justice, results of which are expected in 2016 and could affect all US tech companies operating in Europe.