Facebook is target of international data-breach lawsuit

More than 900 people in the UK have joined the class action, while Germany has registered the most interest, with 5,287.

VIENA, AUSTRIA: A data-privacy advocate and Viennese lawyer is leading a class-action lawsuit against Facebook. More than 20,000 people from 100 countries have signed up, accusing the social network of breaching European Union data laws.

Max Schrems, the leader of the lawsuit who has invited Facebook members outside the US and Canada to sign up for the class action, said up to 7,000 people have signed up every day since it was submitted last Thursday to the Commercial Court in Vienna.

Part of its claim is that Facebook is monitoring its members’ behavior on and off the network, which Schrems said breaches laws governing data privacy. He said the case is "likely to be heard in courts before the end of the year."

More than 900 people in the UK have joined the class action, while Germany has registered the most interest, with 5,287, as well as 3,712 from Austria. The total will be capped at 25,000, Schrems explained.

"We have hoped for large support, but the number of participants in such a short time exceeded my most optimistic expectations," he said. "We were well prepared for this huge amount of claims. Nevertheless, we have to limit the claims after this short time, because we will have to verify and administer every individual claim."

People can register via smartphone app or the FBClaim.com website. Users initially only have to submit names and addresses.

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

The suit against Facebook Ireland, where the social network’s European business is headquartered, accuses Facebook of a number of breaches, including support of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program and tracking of Internet users on external websites. It also accuses the social network of monitoring and analysis of users through "big data" systems, and unauthorized passing on of user data to external applications.

The claim for damages has been deliberately set low, at a token €500 ($668) per user, Schrems added.

"We are only claiming a small amount, as our primary objective is to ensure correct data protection," he explained. "However, if many thousands of people participate, we would reach an amount that will have a serious impact on Facebook."

This story originally appeared on the website of Marketing.

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