April 9 Start Date for Class-Action vs. Facebook

The first hearing in a class-action lawsuit against Facebook filed in Vienna by Austrian law student Max Schrems and his Europe Versus Facebook group is scheduled for April 9

EuropeVersusFacebookApp650The first hearing in a class-action lawsuit against Facebook filed in Vienna by Austrian law student Max Schrems and his Europe Versus Facebook group is scheduled for April 9, TechCrunch reported.

Schrems and Europe Versus Facebook filed the class-action suit in Vienna Aug. 1 and quickly reached the cap of 25,000 claimants that they specified. Users from the U.S. and Canada were not allowed to participate.

The suit covers issues including:

  • The social network’s alleged participation in the U.S. National Security Agency’s Prism initiative.
  • Its privacy policy.
  • Its tracking of visitors to websites with like buttons.
  • The “absence of effective consent to many types of data use.”
  • Its noncompliance with data-access requests.
  • The “unlawful introduction” of Graph Search.
  • Granting third-party applications access to user information.
  • Monitoring user activity via big data analytics.

Schrems said in a statement when the suit was filed:

In the beginning, we made great progress in Ireland (Facebook’s European headquarters is in Dublin). As a result of our complaints, Facebook had to delete data and deactivate its facial recognition all over the world. However, over time, it became clear that the Irish authorities had no interest in enforcing substantial changes. The proceedings will soon reach the end of their third year, and we are still being promised a decision “in the near future.” Many voices in Ireland are saying that this is due to political pressure not to drive away the IT industry, which is very important in Ireland. We shouldn’t have that problem in Austria. We are therefore transferring the focus of our activities here.

According to TechCrunch, the 25,000 claimants can claim up to €500 ($563.46) each in damages, which could cost Facebook some $14 million. While a $14 million payout is a drop in the bucket for the company, the public-relations nightmare that would come with losing this suit could end up being much more costly.

Readers: How do you think this lawsuit will play out?

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.