Student Files Privacy Class Action Lawsuit Against Facebook, Pulls in 11,000 participants so far
On Friday, an Austrian law student and data privacy activist Max Schrems, who heads up the Europe vs Facebook group, launched a class action lawsuit against Facebook, inviting adult non-commercial Facebook users located anywhere outside the US and Canada to join in – which means around 1 billion users could potentially join the case against the social media company.
Schrems filed the suit at the Commercial Court for Vienna against Facebook’s Irish subsidiary for data violations, including aiding the U.S. National Security Agency run the Prism program revealed by Edward Snowden. The damages being claimed are €500 (around $670) per user.
Potential Users are free to join in via a website www.fbclaim.com, that has been set up for the case. The process is pretty straightforward: participants are required to sign in with their Facebook credentials (to verify they have an account and that they qualify to join), and then provide certain personal information such as their address, birth date and to upload an identity document scan such as a passport.
If the case is won, then the users who participated will get the damages owned to them.
Schrems said they deliberately set damages at low as their main objective is to ensure users’ data protection. However, it’s obvious that if enough people participate they could reach an amount that might cause a serious blow to the social media giant.
The Europe vs Facebook group announced today that its civil action lawsuit had pulled in more than 11,000 participants in the first weekend, reports TechCrunch. Among the people who joined in, about 50% are currently from German-speaking countries, while a “high number” from the Netherlands, Finland and the UK. Considering the current participation, the damages could amount to up to €5.5 million – and the participants’ number is still counting.
Under Austrian law, a group of people is able to name a sole claimant, and in this case that person is Schrems. Which means that there is no financial risk for others participating the action. An Austrian law firm ROLAND ProzessFinanz AG will bear legal costs for the case, and if the case is won, the firm will take 20 percent of damages, as the legal fanancier.
This is not the first time that Schrems has a legal action against Facebook. The student became famous in 2011 for being the first European to request the social network disclose all the information it had on him, after which he received a stack of 1,222 pages. In 2012, Schrems forced Facebook to abandon its photo-tagging suggestion feature in Europe as it violated the company’s users’ privacy.
Schrems told Mashable that they are not against the technology, but they don’t want their privacy to be compromised. As Schrems said: “Right now you have two options: live like in the stone age, or take action. We decided for the second.”
Facebook hasn’t yet commented on Schrems’ lawsuit.
Gohar is the lead editor at TechFrag. He has a wide range of interests when it comes to tech but he's currently spending a big chunk of his time writing about privacy, cyber security, and anything policy related.