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Facebook faces class-action lawsuit in Austria over privacy violations

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With allegations that Facebook tracks users all the time, even those who have never used Facebook in the past, it’s no wonder why privacy-minded folks aren’t too thrilled with the social network. It looks like things will come to a head, though, as 27-year-old Austrian law graduate and privacy campaigner Max Schrems filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, reports Yahoo.

The lawsuit stems from Facebook’s alleged involvement in PRISM, a leaked NSA program that allegedly had the U.S. government colluding with the social network for mass surveillance. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied the allegations, though the lawsuit also paints Facebook as an entity that breaches European Union privacy laws through the “illegal” trafficking of user data.

In total, 25,000 users have sued the social network, with each plaintiff claiming a sum of 500 euros ($540) in damages, making the total around $13.5 million.

Schrems filed the lawsuit against Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin, which registers all accounts outside the U.S. and Canada. Because Schrems believes Facebook violated European privacy law, he was successful in filing the lawsuit in Vienna.

“Basically we are asking Facebook to stop mass surveillance, to (have) a proper privacy policy that people can understand, but also to stop collecting data of people that are not even Facebook users,” said Schrems.

Facebook’s legal team believes the case is inadmissible under Austrian law, arguing that “there is no legal basis for a U.S.-style class action.” Schrems’ lawyer dismissed this argument, saying it lacks “any substance.”

Judges presiding over the case, which was crowdfunded, will have to rule on this argument and the aforementioned points. The case is currently being heard by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the highest court in all of Europe.

If this case goes Schrems’ way, this could set a precedent for years to come. Unfortunately, this case is unlikely to be decided very soon. We will keep you updated.

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