Saturday

11th Jul 2020

Facebook risks fresh trial in Austrian court

  • Facebook is accused of compiling European users' data and sending them to the US (Photo: Eston)

The legal battle against Facebook in Europe could reach a new stage on Thursday (9 April), when an Austrian court hears a civil suit filed against the American firm by Austrian citizen Max Schrems.

Schrems, a 27-year old privacy campaigner, is accusing Facebook of compiling its users’ personal data in violation of Austrian and EU legislation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Following revelations by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, Schrems also alleges that Facebook co-operated with the US National Security Agency (NSA) in the "Prism" surveillance program.

The court in Vienna will hold a technical hearing in order to decide if Schrems’ case is admissible in Austria and if it can be put forward as a class action.


Facebook disputes Schrems’ right to file a civil suit in Austria on grounds that its European HQ is in Ireland.

Schrems is suing Facebook in the name of 25,000 people who signed an online-petition. He is asking the Vienna court to consider their case as a class action.

He argues that he is presenting a consumer complaint and that it is admissible in the complainant's country.

He is seeking a €10 million compensation, which he says would amount to a symbolic €500 per person.

If the Vienna court declares itself entitled to hear the case, it would open a new front in the legal battle against the social media provider.

In 2011, Schrems lodged a complaint with the data protection commissioner in Ireland, the home of Facebook’s European headquarters, on grounds that the multinational exported its European users’ data to the US.

After the commissioner failed to answer, Schrems and his ‘Europe vs. Facebook’ group brought the case to the Irish High Court, which found that the US had “mass and undifferentiated” access to Facebook users’ data.

The Irish High Court then suspended the case and asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to examine the rules on data transfer between Europe and the US.

At a ECJ hearing on 24 March, European Commission attorney Bernhard Schima suggested that the Safe Harbour agreement signed between the EU and the US to protect the personal data of European users of US websites offers no real guarantee.

"You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one," said the EU lawyer.

The ECJ’s advocate general will publish an opinion on 24 June.

EU-US data pact skewered in court hearing

A lawyer for the European Commission told an EU judge on Tuesday he should close his Facebook page if he wants to stop the US snooping on him.

EU judgement on Facebook to take over a year

Any EU-level judgement on a case filed against Facebook for its alleged involvement in helping the Americans snoop on millions of people is likely to take over a year.

News in Brief

  1. Citizens' perception of judicial independence drops
  2. Irish finance minister voted in as eurogroup president
  3. Italy's League party opens office near old communist HQ
  4. 'Significant divergences' remain in Brexit talks
  5. Germany identifies 32,000 right-wing extremists
  6. WHO to hold probe of global Covid-19 response
  7. China accuses Australia of 'gross interference' on Hong Kong
  8. EU to let Croatia, Bulgaria take first step to join euro

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  2. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  3. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds
  4. MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform
  5. If EU wants rule of law in China, it must help 'dissident' lawyers
  6. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  7. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  8. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us