Austria’s Supreme Court to rule on whether Facebook privacy lawsuit gets class-action status

© Dado Ruvic
Austria’s highest court will rule on whether a case filed against Facebook over its privacy policies could be regarded as a class action lawsuit.

Austrian law student Max Schrems, who launched the case against Facebook over the way it handles personal information in July 2014, has claimed 500 euros ($532) on the behalf of more than 25,000 people who took up his idea and signed up to the lawsuit. 

READ MORE: No ‘Safe Harbor’: Mixed reaction as top European court strikes down EU-US data-transfer agreement

It is now up to Austria’s Supreme Court to decide whether this kind of collective legal actions is allowed. Before that, an appellate court rejected Schrems’ request for a class action to form.

“It would not make a lot of sense for the court or the parties before it to file these claims as thousands of individual lawsuits – which we can still do if a ‘class action’ is not allowed,” Schrems said in a statement.

“We therefore think that the ‘class action’ is not only legal but also the only reasonable way to deal with thousands of identical privacy violations by Facebook,” he added.

Meanwhile Facebook is denying any violation of its users’ privacy and is trying prevent the lawsuit from turning into a class-action.

“Facebook continues to spam the court with countless wrong and already dismissed accusations to avoid even facing the court on the content of the lawsuit. I doubt that this strategy will work at the Supreme Court,” Schrems commented regarding the tech giant’s actions.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it will be a class-action at the beginning of 2016. There will be no previous hearing and the verdict is to be issued in writing. Once the matter is settled, the Vienna Regional Court will pick a date for the hearing of the initial case.

READ MORE: 20,000 Israelis sue Facebook over Palestinian calls to kill Jews

In June the Vienna regional court rejected 22 claims filed by Schrems due to a lack of jurisdiction. However, in October Austria’s Courts of Appeal ruled 20 of 22 claims in his favor. However, the class-action question still was not resolved.

Earlier, in a milestone ruling, the Court of Justice found the “Safe Harbor” data-transfer agreement to have compromised the European right to privacy which might lead to banning Facebook and other companies from blanket-sending data to the US.

This is not the first class-action lawsuit Facebook may have to deal with. Nearly 20,000 Israelis brought legal proceedings against the company a month ago after it failed to detect and delete photos and videos from Palestinians that might have incited violence towards Jews.

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