Student Can't File Lawsuit Against Facebook: Court Adviser At EU

Privacy campaigner can sue Facebook EU court hears

An activist is trying to sue Facebook for about 12.5 million euros, or $14.7 million.

An Austrian law student cannot bring a class action suit against Facebook's Irish unit over alleged privacy violations in an Austrian court, an European Union court adviser said on Tuesday, but can sue the company in his home country on his own behalf.

Schrems has accused the social network of violating European privacy laws, taking aim at what he sees as invalid privacy policies and data-sharing agreements the company has with USA intelligence agencies.

Max Schrems has been told that he is unlikely to be able to bring a "class action" style case against Facebook's Irish unit in one of Austria's courts.

Mr Schrems had been seeking to claim 500 euros ($586; £448) in damages per person for about 25,000 people.

Advocate general Michal Bobek has today issued an opinion (PDF) advising the ECJ to rule that Schrems should be considered a consumer - but that he shouldn't be able to launch a class-action case.

Adobe Systems Incorporated (ADBE), Facebook, Inc. (FB) — Trending Stocks Alert
Following the completion of the transaction, the director now directly owns 16,088 shares in the company, valued at $2,802,529.60. Los Angeles Capital Management & Equity Research Inc. raised its stake in shares of Adobe Systems by 12.1% in the third quarter.

The Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, took action at the High Court, urging the transfer of the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. His opinion is not binding, but is generally followed.

For its part, Facebook has limited itself to saying: "Today's opinion supports the decisions of two courts that Mr Schrems's claims can not proceed as "class action" on behalf of other consumers in Austrian courts".

But Bobek came down on the side of Facebook on the second question over the class-action suit: he can't add "consumers domiciled other places of the same Member State, in other Member States or in non-Member States" to his consumer case. "It seems that Facebook has managed to score with their emotional horror stories, according to which collective actions by consumers are highly questionable", he said.

The class action lawsuits are predominant in the US, but they are rare in European countries.

Schrems said that this opinion was "unfortunately hard to understand", and countered that if people were to bring separate cases this would drive court costs up for everyone.

A Facebook spokesperson welcomed Bobek's decision. This will give him an opportunity to debate on illegal practices by Facebook for the first time in the open court. "Today's opinion supports the decisions of two courts that Mr. Schrems" claims can not proceed as "class action' on behalf of other consumers in Austrian courts", the spokesperson said in a statement.

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