In April, Facebook argued that a Vienna court didn’t have the jurisdiction to consider charges brought by Austrian activist Max Schrems, who claimed Facebook was breaking European privacy laws. The court has now thrown out the case, citing the fact that Schrems might not qualify as a private individual, and that many of the complaints Schrems has collected come from Facebook users not based in Austria.
Schrems alleges that Facebook is violating E.U. privacy laws by collecting and using individual data without adequate consent, and by tracking its users even outside of the Facebook ecosystem by keeping tabs on their “Like” button activity.
“The court rejected the complaint because the international jurisdiction doesn’t apply,” a court spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal. This is in part because Facebook’s European and global operations are largely centered in Dublin.
Schrems is representing 25,000 people and has managed to get another 60,000 signatures from Facebook users worldwide, making this the most sizable class-action suit to be filed against Facebook. According to the New York Times, Schrems intends to appeal within the next two weeks, and he pointed out that the court’s decision wasn’t a dealbreaker: “You always run this risk with these complicated cases . . . because they can take years to play out in the courts.”
The court’s rejection of this case is a big win for Facebook at a time when the company’s privacy policies are under scrutiny by regulators in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. In March, a report solicited by Belgium’s data protection agency concluded that Facebook is tracking users even when they are not logged into the service.