Vienna Court Hears Privacy Law Suit Against Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB)

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) ’s legal fight in Europe enters yet another stage today when Vienna district court takes up a civil suit filed against the US Company by an Austrian privacy campaigner. The suit jointly filed by Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, and privacy campaigner, along with 25,000 users accuses Facebook of tracking their data in violation of Austrian and EU privacy laws.

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Today’s first hearing will be on the technicalities of the petition as whether the Vienna court is entitled to take up the case and whether the complaint is permissible as a class-action suit.

In the meanwhile, the Vienna court instructed Facebook to bring forward translations of documents of representatives of the plaintiff before it within a period of three weeks. The court also asked the applicant’s lawyers to be ready with their responses within three weeks’ time.

A similar case has already been brought out against the US multinational before the Dublin’s European Court of Justice from where Facebook operates its accounts outside US and Canada.

Although class-action lawsuits are unprecedented in nature, still they are not unheard of in Austrian courts.

If the charges are proved in this civil case, then Facebook will be required to cough up a hefty compensation of €10 million to the aggrieved parties. Schrems claims that though the case restricts the participation of 25,000 users, still 50,000 people are ready to lend their voice in support of his mission.

However, the prominent social networking site questions the interference of the court, citing European procedural laws and argues that the suit is not admissible in Irish courts.

On the other hand, the defense lawyer representing Schrems counteracted saying that his plaintiff has every right to approach the court as a customer complainant in his native land.

It is not the first time that Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) was caught on a wrong foot. At the first occurrence, the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) admonished the globally premier social networking site to show compliance with regional data protection requirements after having audited its practices in 2011 and 2012.

Further, Belgium’s data protection authority that is commissioned by Facebook exposed chinks in the social networking site’s modified privacy policy, blaming it for not taking prior consent from the users before making use of their data.

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Stinson is US Markets Daily’s Senior Producer for News & Public Affairs.

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