Austria court throws out Facebook privacy class action suit

AFP , Wednesday 1 Jul 2015

An Austrian civil court has rejected a class action case against Facebook for alleged privacy breaches, saying it lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter, court officials said on Wednesday.

Law graduate Max Schrems and 25,000 other users are suing Facebook for various rights violations, including what they call Facebook's "illegal" tracking of their data to its involvement in the US PRISM surveillance programme of the US National Security Agency.

Facebook's legal team argued that the case was not admissible in an Austrian civil court because "there is no legal basis for a US-style class action".

The social media giant also accused Schrems of launching the lawsuit for financial gain rather than out of concern for consumer rights.

A judge in Vienna sided with the US company, ruling that Schrems had used one of his two Facebook accounts for professional reasons, meaning he could no longer be considered a private consumer.

"Therefore the court has rejected the case because it does not lie in its jurisdiction," a spokeswoman for the court told AFP.

Schrems said he would appeal the ruling.

"I am a little bit disappointed but it was expected that it would take us a while," he told AFP.

His lawyer said the ruling had come as "a shock" and that it raised questions about consumers' rights on a European level.

Each of the plaintiffs in the case is claiming a symbolic sum of 500 euros ($540) in damages.

The case has been brought against Facebook's European headquarters in Dublin, which registers all accounts outside the United States and Canada -- making up some 80 percent of Facebook's 1.35 billion users.

Schrems was able to file his action against the Irish subsidiary at a civil court in Vienna because, under EU law, all member states have to enforce court rulings from any other member state.

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