Facebook-Suing Student Adds Class Action to Privacy Quest

Facebook Inc. faces a class action in Austria led by Max Schrems, a law student and data-privacy campaigner who’s already had a case against the social network sent to the European Court of Justice.

Schrems alleges Facebook has violated European Union law with its data policy and by supporting the U.S. National Security Agency’s Prism program, under which companies turned over user data to the government. He’s claiming 500 euros ($671) in damages per user and appealed on his website to people outside of the U.S. and Canada to join his lawsuit.

“Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection,” Schrems said in a statement. “Within the framework of this class action, individuals can also make a contribution to this effort.”

Facebook, used by 1.32 billion people worldwide, recently came under pressure when U.K. authorities started investigating a psychological experiment in which the social network influenced what users saw in their news feeds. The case came amid a push by the EU for stronger privacy safeguards in a data-transfer deal with the U.S.

Facebook’s press representatives at Apco Worldwide in Berlin declined to comment on the case. Alexander Schmidt, a spokesman for the Vienna Commercial Court, confirmed that the case against Facebook Ireland was brought by Schrems yesterday.

A ruling in Austria could be enforced in Ireland, from where Facebook’s European operations are run, Schrems said. Because he’s bringing the lawsuit as a consumer, he could file it only at his place of residence, which is Vienna.

The action will be funded by a financier who’ll get 20 percent of damages if the case is won. Users can join the action without any financial risk, according to the statement. Under Austrian law, people can transfer their financial claims to a single person even as there is no typical class action. Any damages awarded would be shared.

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