Monday 23 September 2019

Privacy campaigner entitled to sue Facebook in Austria

Max Schrems: battling social media giant since 2011 Picture: Collins Courts
Max Schrems: battling social media giant since 2011 Picture: Collins Courts

Siobhan Fenton

The Advocate General in Europe's highest court has said that a privacy campaigner is entitled to sue Facebook Ireland through the Austrian courts.

Max Schrems has been engaged in a legal battle with the social media giant since 2011.

The case is centred on his claims that Facebook collects private data in excess of what is allowed under EU law, and that it allows US intelligence access to the material.

Mr Schrems's complaint has so far primarily been heard in Dublin, where Facebook has its European headquarters.

He has since taken a subsequent case in his home country of Austria, after expressing frustration at the pace of progress in the Irish legal system.

However, Facebook disputed the case on the grounds that it was not appropriate for the jurisdiction to hear the case.

The European Court of Justice's Advocate General, Michal Bobek, released a non-binding opinion.

The court is not required to follow his opinion, but it tends to reflect it in its rulings.

Mr Bobek's opinion states that Mr Schrems's case would be limited to his own personal claim.

It also says that he is not entitled to bring a class action suit against the US tech giant.

"A consumer who is entitled to sue his foreign contact partner in his own place of domicile, cannot involve, at the same time as his own claims, claims on the same subject assigned by other consumers," Mr Bobek wrote.

The case could have huge ramifications on EU trade with the US.

It centres on whether Europeans enjoy enough protection from American mass surveillance.

Thousands of companies rely on the current arrangements to transfer information such as credit card payments between countries.

They are essential to firms of all sizes.

Facebook has previously argued that upholding them is critical to ensuring that the economy can continue to grow without facing disruption.

Irish Independent

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