Facebook Data Privacy Class Action Now Oversubscribed

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A civil class action lawsuit being brought against Facebook on privacy grounds by Europe vs Facebook campaigner Max Schrems has hit its current maximum of 25,000 participants less than a week after the action was announced.

The class action was submitted to a Vienna, Austria court last Thursday and attracted 11,000 participants over the weekend. It’s now hit its initial limit of 25,000 — imposed by the organizers because of the associated admin burden.

Additional participants wanting to join the action are being asked to register their interest, via a Facebook class action website, in the eventuality of the case organizers being able to increase the number of participants.

“If we can join more people for whatever reason (good feeling in courts, easier handling than we expected, more capacities after proceeding the first 25.000, …) [we will],” Schrems told TechCrunch via email. “The cut was just necessary to not have expectations that we might not be able to meet in the future. We want to be straight-forward with the people joining.”

“The current maximum has nothing to do with [legal] costs (as we are insured via the procedure financing company), but with the administrative burden that e.g. 100.000 class members would mean to us. Mind that we are consumers that invite other consumers to join an existing case. I don’t get a single cent more than any class member,” he added.

Schrems is the only named claimant in the case, so there are no risks of any costs for participants in the class action. The case is being financed by Austrian law firm ROLAND ProzessFinanz AG, which will net a fifth of any winnings.

Damages have been set intentionally low — at “a token €500 per user” — but given there are now 25,000 participants if the case prevails and those full damages are granted that’s currently a €12.5 million toll for Facebook.

Earlier today, when the suit had reached 21,000 participants, the top 10 countries joining the action were as follows:

1. Germany — 5.287
2. Austria — 3.712
3. Netherlands — 2.438
4. Finland — 1.179
5. Croatia — 1.106
6. United Kingdom — 913
7. Belgium — 894
8. France — 736
9. Serbia — 588
10. Poland — 415

In all, individuals from more than 100 countries have signed up to participate in the suit, according to the case organizers. At peak times the case was registering up to 7,000 participants per day.

Schrems said the response had exceeded his “most optimistic expectations”.

“With this number of participants we have a great basis, to stop complaining about privacy violations and actually do something about it. If we are successful, the outcome will of course have a positive impact on all users,” he added in a statement.

Specifically the suit targets the following — as the case views it — “unlawful” acts on Facebook’s part:

  • Data use policy which is invalid under EU law
  • The absence of effective consent to many types of data use
  • Support of the NSA’s ‘PRISM’ surveillance programme
  • Tracking of Internet users on external websites (e.g. through ‘Like buttons’)
  • Monitoring and analysis of users through ‘big data’ systems
  • Unlawful introduction of ‘Graph Search’
  • Unauthorised passing on of user data to external applications