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Why 25,000 People In Europe Are Trying To Sue Facebook

25,000 EU citizens claim Facebook violated their privacy. An Austrian court is deciding whether to take the case.

Why 25,000 People In Europe Are Trying To Sue Facebook
[Photo: Flickr user FACEBOOK(LET)]

A legal showdown is brewing between Facebook and 25,000 of its users in the European Union. An Austrian court is considering a class-action privacy lawsuit alleging privacy violations in the methods used by the social media titan to collect and forward data, says the BBC.

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The allegations are twofold: that Facebook cooperated with the U.S. governmental surveillance and data collection program Prism and that Facebook itself tracks people illegally using its “Like” features.

The Facebook users leading the charge may be spot-on with the illegal tracking, according to a Belgian study released last week that found Facebook tracks users on external sites that use a Facebook social media plug-in (e.g., the “like” button). And Facebook even uses a special cookie to track EU citizens that expressly opt out of tracking, which is a privacy right afforded to EU citizens thanks to the 2002 EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications.

Naturally, Facebook argued in a court hearing in Vienna today that the class-action lawsuit be dismissed and presented a list of procedural objections, the BBC reports.

When the Belgian study was released, Facebook told The Guardian that it complies with EU privacy rules and checks with its regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, to ensure they are complying with the EU Data Privacy Directive.

The big question here is whether any court in the EU can wrest financial awards or levy judicial punishments on American tech companies. Back in a February Re/code interview, President Obama seemed to brush off EU privacy concerns as political gambits to carve out market space for regional businesses. Microsoft has already lost a landmark EU antitrust case and paid out $1.8 billion in 2012–and the EU Commission looks similarly unafraid to challenge Google with an imminent antitrust case it appears to be gearing up for. The court will issue a written report over the next few weeks on whether it can take the case, says the BBC.

[via the BBC]

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