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Facebook Challenged Over Privacy In European Lawsuit

25,000 Sign Up To Challenge Social Media Giant

Facebook is not exactly well known for respecting the privacy rights of its users. From intrusive data mining to using personal photos to advertise products to leaking the personal contact data information of six million users last year, the site has come under plenty of fire for the frequently lax ways in which it handles its members’ details.

Now an Austrian lawyer thinks that he has a case against them. Max Schrems is claiming that the way in which Zuckerberg’s social media giant monitors its users’ information contravenes EU laws, and people seem to be agreeing with him – his case hit its maximum number of 25,000 participants less than a week after it was announced.

Although Mr. Schrems is the only named claimant in the case – meaning that those 25,000 participants risk nothing by associating themselves with it – he is seeking symbolic damages of €500 per person, a rate which would currently cost Facebook €12.5 million if they lost the case. The only current reason for limiting the number of participants is administrative; each person must be assessed to ensure that they are genuine. 

Mr. Schrems has said that he would be open to the idea of allowing more people to become engaged if the administrative task is manageable, as the more people involved the more weight the campaign will be given in court.

Mr. Schrems is specifically targeting Facebook for allegedly contravening EU data policy law, supporting the NSA’s PRISM programme, and the passing on of user data to external applications without authorisation, among other charges.

The majority of supporters of Mr. Schrem’s cause come from Germany, where over five thousand people have signed up, with Austria a close second at almost four thousand. Around nine hundred people from the UK have signalled their support. Overall people from over 100 countries have signed up.

The class action lawsuit is being financed by Austrian law firm ROLAND ProzessFinanz AG, which will receive a fifth of any winnings from the case. Mr. Schrems has said that all money after that will be distributed among the claimants.

Facebook’s problems with privacy have an impact beyond legal claims. When users delete their Facebook account they are prompted to provide a reason, and of these the greatest proportion – 48% – cited concerns about privacy as their reason for leaving the site. Teenagers especially (one of themost valuable demographics for social media sites) are moving away from thesite, with the number of them who name Facebook as their number one social networking site almost halving from 42% to 23% in recent years. Research suggests that many of them are leaving for sites such as Instagram or Snapchat, where users have more control over content and privacy is less of an issue.

Mr. Schrems has stated that this lawsuit is not about challenging Facebook but rather intended to provoke people into considering more closely the state of privacy legislation in the EU. He says that while people complain about privacy violations ‘the reality is we don’t do anything about it – we complain, then go home and drink beer.’


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook Challenged Over Privacy In European Lawsuit Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, August 08, 2014 Rating: 5
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