Trials & Litigation

Financier backs Austrian law student's class action against Facebook; it seeks damages under US law

Backed by an unidentified financier, a 26-year-old Austrian law student has filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook in his privacy-friendly home country.

The Vienna commercial court case filed by Max Schrems claims privacy violations under European Union law, pointing to Facebook’s sharing of user data with third parties through the “like” button and with external applications. It also claims Facebook violated data-protection rules by helping the U.S. National Security Agency with Prism, Reuters reports.

The suit seeks injunctive relief and damages under California law, which Facebook says governs the company’s terms of service.


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However, a Web page asking other Facebook users to join in the suit says residents of the U.S. and Canada cannot participate “for legal reasons.” Reuters says those outside North America can sue in Austria because Facebook runs international operations from Ireland, which is among the EU countries.

The financier will cover the cost of the litigation if Schrems loses, and take a 20 percent cut of any winnings, thus eliminating any potential cost to plaintiffs, Reuters explains. Individual plaintiffs are seeking 500 Euros each.

Facebook declined to comment last week, when the suit was filed.

Related coverage: “US also collects Internet data; does NSA directly tap servers of Google and other top companies?” “Shareholders suit accuses IBM of defrauding investors by hiding its cooperation with NSA program”

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