Data privacy has become a hotly contested issue within the last few years. Companies like Google and Facebook spend millions of dollars a year to gather information. Though the majority of global users have resigned to take the bad with the good, not everyone is willing to go down quietly. Recently, European courts granted E.U. citizens the “right to be forgotten. Allowing a user to request that Google remove pages baring his or her name as long as it is not deemed a matter of public importance. Now it seems the E.U. is looking to take the fight to Facebook.
On Friday, Aug. 1, a Europe Vs Facebook class action campaign began attracting worldwide Facebook users (barring U.S. and Canadian citizens) with grievances against Facebook’s data-gathering policies. The group told TechCrunch that they already have some 11,000 individuals who have joined the campaign, which is targeting certain Facebook policies that include:
- Data use policy, which is invalid under E.U. law
- The absence of effective consent to many types of data use
- Support of the NSA’s “PRISM” surveillance program
- Tracking of Internet users on external websites (e.g., through ‘Like buttons’)
- Monitoring and analysis of users through “big data” systems
- Unlawful introduction of “Graph Search”
- Unauthorized passing on of user data to external applications
About half of all participants report hailing from German-speaking countries. Still, a spokesman for the campaign explained, “Reasonable numbers come from all European countries and South America.” The suit has already been filed in at the Commercial Court in Vienna, and Viennese lawyer Max Schrems is acting as the claimant on the behalf of the organization. The suit has received financial backing from Austrian law firm ROLAND ProzessFinanz AG, which will acquire 20 percent of any potential winnings from the suit.
The damages sought are relatively low, at around €500, or about $670, a user. There are at least 11,000 names signed onto the suit, which could tally up as high as €5.5 million, or $7.64 million, in total fines. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s market capital, which 247WallSt reported at $188.9 billion. The goal of the suit is not to win a large payday, however. The real purpose of the suit is for people to legally announce their displeasure with the way in which Facebook conducts its business. Users must speak now or forever hold their silence. But in reality, it may already be too late.