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Lawsuits in Chicago and Vienna challenge Facebook’s data practices


bitcoin-judgeFacebook has been hit with a new class-action lawsuit in Vienna over alleged rights violations ranging from the company (allegedly) breaking European privacy laws to its (alleged) cooperation with the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

The lawsuit follows another suit filed in Chicago earlier this week. That lawsuit alleges that Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy act of 2008 by storing all the facial recognition data used to automatically tag people in photos.

Both suits come after regulators across Europe have increased their scrutiny of Facebook’s data practices. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month:

Government privacy watchdogs from France, Spain and Italy have in recent weeks joined a group of regulators investigating the social-networking company’s privacy controls, officials said, doubling the number of European countries analyzing the way Facebook handles the personal information and connections gleaned from more than 300 million users in Europe.

The three regulators join a Dutch-led effort, accompanied by authorities in Germany and Belgium, that is examining the way Facebook combines data from its services, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, to target advertising. Also under investigation is Facebook’s use of its “like” buttons that could track Internet browsing habits, regulators say.

Facebook recently pushed back on some of the criticisms that led the watchdogs to look into its practices. It refuted most of the claims made by Belgian researchers — though it admitted cookies were installed on some non-Facebook-users’ devices — in “a list of corrections and clarifications for a number of misstatements” in the report.

Yet these lawsuits make it clear that Facebook’s woes aren’t going to end when Belgian researchers stop looking into its data privacy practices. The Vienna suit shows that people are still concerned about the company’s reported cooperation with NSA programs; the Chicago suit shows the concerns aren’t restricted to Europe.



Class-Action Suit vs. Facebook Referred to Another Court in Vienna, Austria


EuropeVersusFacebookApp650The class-action lawsuit filed against Facebook last week by Austrian law student Max Schrems and his Europe Versus Facebook group, which reached the plaintiff-imposed limit of 25,000 participants earlier this week, now just needs to find a court, as the commercial court of Vienna rejected the suit and referred it to the city’s regional court, PCWorld reported.

A spokesman for the commercial court called the move a procedural decision and said, as reported by PCWorld:

It is a claim that doesn’t belong at the commercial court, but belongs at the regional court for civil cases.

A spokeswoman for the regional court told PCWorld the judge who was assigned the case will make a decision “as quickly as possible” on whether or not to accept it, cautioning that the court is in the middle of its summer holiday period.

Schrems told PCWorld the move “is not a big deal,” adding:

To us it doesn’t really matter what court we end up in.

The class-action suit was filed in Vienna last Friday, and only Facebook users outside of the U.S. and Canada can join. The multifaceted suit covers topics including:

  • The social network’s alleged participation in the U.S. National Security Agency’s Prism initiative.
  • Its privacy policy.
  • Its tracking of visitors to websites with like buttons.
  • The “absence of effective consent to many types of data use.”
  • Its noncompliance with data-access requests.
  • The “unlawful introduction” of Graph Search.
  • Granting third-party applications access to user information.
  • Monitoring user activity via big data analytics.

Readers: Should the regional court move forward with this class-action suit?