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Court Gives Go Ahead For Privacy Lawsuit Against Facebook

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

An Austrian court has given the go ahead for a class action lawsuit against the social networking giant Facebook. The effort is led by Max Schrems, founder of Europe vs Facebook group, and involves more than 25,000 people from around the world who claim that their privacy was breached by the company. Schrems filed the lawsuit against Facebook in August’ 2014 plus he had also approached the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland to conduct an inquiry regarding the activities of US companies within Europe.

The class action privacy lawsuit is the largest one of its kind within Europe. The case has plaintiffs not only from Europe but also from Asia, Australia and Latin America. However, North American Facebook users cannot be a part of the lawsuit since it has been filed against Facebook Ireland, the Dublin based branch of the company.

Even though Europe vs Facebook group invited Facebook users from around the world to join the class action lawsuit, it was clearly not prepared for the massive response that the case evoked. The group had to stop accepting sign-ups after the number swelled to 25,000 but nevertheless more than 50,000 additional Facebook users have registered on the group’s website expressing interest to be a part of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Facebook collaborated with the US intelligence agency NSA and provided it with personal details of users under the ambit of the PRISM surveillance program. The plaintiffs also allege that the actions of the social networking company were in contravention to European laws and that it tracks internet users on external sites and applications through a variety of methods including the use of the “Like” button. As you might be aware, PRISM is a secret surveillance program that was launched by the US intelligence agency NSA in 2007 and whose details were leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013.

The group led by Schrems by is asking for a token amount of €500 for each user who is part of the lawsuit from the social networking giant. The group also wants Facebook to suspend the use of user data and change its policies to ensure that subscribers’ personal data remains protected at all times. The group says that the decision made by the Austrian Court would have to be accepted by Facebook if it does not issue a counter-statement. As things stand now, the company stands to pay millions of dollars as compensation to the plaintiffs if it fails to respond to the charges and loses the case.

Facebook, whose latest policy changes are under scrutiny in many European countries, has so far not responded to the allegations made by the group. The group claims that the social networking company has denied all the charges as well as claimed that it cannot be sued by its users anywhere. The group has also accused the company of adopting delaying tactics to derail the case and using bizarre arguments to defend itself. The Court will hear the case in the second week of April and it would be interesting to see which side wins the battle.

March 29, 2015

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