Austrian court to hear Facebook class action suit

An Austrian court on Monday, Jan 26, 2015 agreed to consider a class action lawsuit by 25,000 people against Facebook for alleged violations of their privacy. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An Austrian court on Monday, Jan 26, 2015 agreed to consider a class action lawsuit by 25,000 people against Facebook for alleged violations of their privacy. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (AFP) - An Austrian court on Monday agreed to consider a class action lawsuit by 25,000 people against Facebook for alleged violations of their privacy.

"The hearing on April 9 will consider the admissibility of the lawsuit," Beatrix Engelmann, a spokesman for the Vienna regional court for civil matters, told AFP.

The lawsuit was first filed in August and is being spearheaded by Max Schrems, a young Austrian law graduate who has been waging a David-against-Goliath battle against Facebook for several years.

Each of the 25,000 plaintiffs - mostly from Europe but also from Asia, Latin America and Australia - is claiming a symbolic 500 euros (S$750) from the US-based online social network giant.

The suit claims a "large number" of violations of users' rights including the "illegal" use of their data and Facebook's participation in the US National Security Agency's snooping programme PRISM.

A further 50,000 Facebook users have registered to join the class action at a later stage.

According to Schrems' advocacy group Europe-v-Facebook, Facebook has refuted the claims, but without explaining why, while seeking to delay the case and question its admissibility.

"Facebook claims that it cannot be sued anywhere effectively," the group said.

"We have reviewed all objections from Facebook in great detail and came to the conclusion that they lack any substance. It seems that they are trying to delay the procedure with arguments that at times are bizarre," the group's lawyer Wolfram Proksch said.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.