Law student seeks a billion Facebook users to join class-action lawsuit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 1:38am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 1:38am

Austrian law student Max Schrems has appealed to a billion Facebook users around the world to join a class-action lawsuit against Facebook's alleged violations of its users' privacy, stepping up a years-long data-protection campaign.

Schrems, a thorn in Facebook's side who has a pending European Court of Justice case involving the social network, has filed a claim at Vienna's commercial court and invited others to join the action at using their Facebook login.

Under Austrian law, a group of people may transfer their financial claims to a single person - in this case, Schrems. Legal proceedings are then effectively run as a class action.

Schrems is claiming damages of 500 euros per user for alleged data violations, including aiding the US National Security Agency in running its Prism programme, which mined the personal data of users of Facebook and other web services.

The 26-year-old is also seeking injunctions under EU data-protection law at the court in data-privacy-friendly Austria. "Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection," he said.

Facebook has come under fire before for allegedly violating data-protection laws. Most recently, Britain's data watchdog began investigating whether a 2012 experiment on unwitting users, in which it tried to alter their emotional state to see if their postings turned more positive or negative.

The world's biggest social network, Facebook now has 1.32 billion users. It shares are at a record high, valuing the company at almost US$200 billion.

Facebook declined to comment yesterday.