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'If I had done this in Ireland it would've taken 25 years' - Facebook Privacy Campaigner

Max Schrems has taken a €10 million class action lawsuit against the tech giant in his native Austria so as to avoid the ‘madness of the Irish courts’.

Image: Shutterstock/OlegDoroshin

ONLINE PRIVACY ADVOCATE Max Schrems has told his court action against Facebook in Vienna that he was forced to take the action there in order to avoid ‘the madness of Irish courts’.

At a three hour preliminary hearing to the case proper, 27-year-old law graduate Schrems replied “I wouldn’t be done in 25 years, it’s madness,” when questioned as to why he had dropped his initial actions in Ireland.

I thought it could drag on for years without achieving anything.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing was to establish whether or not the Austrian court has jurisdiction to judge the class action given Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin.

Europe Students vs Facebook Max Schrems Source: Ronald Zak/PA

Schrems’ €10 million class action suit has been joined by 25,000 other complainants, seven of whom were represented at the Vienna hearing.  Should the action be successful each complainant will be granted a ‘nominal’ compensation of roughly €500.

A further 55,000 complainants sit on a waiting list to join Schrems’ actions further along the line.  Via his group, Europe vs. Facebook, the privacy crusader encourages people to join his actions while updating them on his progress.

A member of Facebook since 2008, the Austrian is alleging that Facebook’s privacy standards are in breach of EU data protection law.

Schrems’ battle for his ‘fundamental rights’ is set in relief to the revelation by American National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden that American security services routinely receive users’ information from Facebook and other media companies.

Schrems had previously filed a number of claims with the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland in 2011, but had retracted all but one in order to pursue his class action suit in the Austrian capital, where he lives.

The sole remaining Ireland-based case has been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), whose ruling on same will be a ‘landmark decision’ which will ‘shape the fundamentals of privacy law in Europe for decades to come’ according to Digital Rights Ireland spokesman TJ McIntyre.

If the ECJ rules in favour of Schrems it would be a ‘potential near-disaster’ for tech firms like Facebook, Google and Microsoft who rely so heavily on European users’ personal data according to US academic Henry Farrell.

Farrell says that companies such as Facebook had so far chosen to set up in Ireland for tax reasons and “because they see Irish privacy officials as more flexible than their mainland European counterparts.”

European Facebook users agree terms with the company’s Irish entity when they sign up for the social network.

A positive result for Schrems at the ECJ could see American-European data relations thrown into disarray with the two global behemoths forced to redesign their privacy regulations in order to be compliant with the legal precedent set down by the European court.

Read: 25,000 people join privacy lawsuit against Facebook

Read: Twitter has banned revenge porn and doxxing

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