Facebook is currently facing an international class action lawsuit for breaching European data protection laws. The suit, brought by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, is aimed at Facebook Ireland which happens to be where the world (minus the US and Canada) officially signs up for the social media site. The location of the Dublin based subsidiary also exposes it to the data protection laws of the European Union, which are much stricter than anywhere else on the planet.
Schrems is claiming that Facebook has had a long list of violations of data privacy in Europe, and it is about time that action is taken to stop the blatant abuse of personal information. He cites instances of Facebook’s involvement with the PRISM spying scandal, tracking of users on other websites via the ‘like’ button, Facebook’s graph search that allows anyone to search for users without their consent, and allowing apps to access and collect information from users.
Facebook is likely to refer to an audit by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) that absolves them from an abuse of the loose language of the data protection regulations set up by the EU. However, the audit is unlikely to have much of an impact as the suit itself is being filed in Austria. International treaties set up within the EU are what allows Schrems to seek judgement in his home country and have them enforced in a foreign legal system.
Most currently active Facebook users will be able to join the class action lawsuit (including Malaysians), and the plaintiff is seeking damages of EUR500 per participant. Those interested in making Facebook take better care of their personal data can sign up for the suit at a specially created website. It should be noted that since this is an actual legal case, all participants must submit proper identification.
Even if this suit fails, it is already doing some amount of work to raise awareness of the importance of data protection and the need for corporations who collect big data to handle it responsibly. It would also do some work for making users of social media aware of what their personal information is being used for and who has access to it; which is highly important for keeping the corporations in check.