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​Facebook's privacy showdown set for Vienna hearing in April

Facebook is heading to court this April to argue why it shouldn't be sued for allegedly violating European privacy laws.
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributor on

Facebook will need to appear in a Vienna court in April to argue why it shouldn't face a class action lawsuit there over accusations it violated European privacy law.

The hearing, set for April 9, will determine whether a class action suit against the company should proceed in Austria. The suit is being brought by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems and a group known as 'Europe versus Facebook'.

Schrems filed the suit last August after having invited users outside of North America to participate in the class action, and quickly saw over 25,000 individuals join the suit, mostly from Europe but also from Asia Pacific and South America.

The group is demanding €500 per individual in damages from Facebook for maintaining invalid privacy policies and illegally collecting and forwarding user data while allegedly participating in the NSA's PRISM program.

In an announcement today, Europe versus Facebook said Facebook so far has only refuted the accusations "across the board, without explaining why" and claims it cannot be sued by its users in either Ireland or Austria.

"Facebook is of the opinion that it cannot be sued: a lawsuit of a larger number of users would be illegal in Ireland (the international headquarters of Facebook), because such a lawsuit would - according to Facebook - violate the 'public order' of Ireland. At the same time Facebook claims that the lawsuit is also inadmissible in Austria (the location of the plaintiff). 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 try to delay the procedure with partly really bizarre arguments," said Dr Proksch, the lawyer representing the users.

Facebook declined to comment on the hearing.

Facebook's last privacy showdown with Schrems took place in Ireland and eventually prompted a privacy audit by Ireland's data protection commissioner. Facebook was forced to simplify its privacy policies, explain to users how personal data is used, flag when it used facial recognition, and cap the retention of ad-click data to two years.

According to the group, 75,000 Facebook users have applied to join the class action.

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