Privacy campaigner entitled to sue Facebook Ireland through Austrian court, European court says

The Advocate General in Europe’s highest court has said a privacy campaigner is entitled to sue Facebook Ireland through the Austrian courts.

Max Schrems has been engaged in a legal battle with the social media giant since 2011, centred on his claims that Facebook collects private data in excess of what is allowed under EU law and allows US intelligence access to the material.

Max Schrems

Facebook’s European headquarters is in Ireland, bringing it within Irish legal jurisdiction.

Mr Schrems’ complaint has primarily been heard in Dublin so far.

The Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, took action at the High Court, urging the transfer of the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Schrems has since taken a subsequent case in his home country of Austria after expressing frustration at the pace of progress in the Irish legal system. However, Facebook disputed the case on the grounds that it was not appropriate for the jurisdiction to hear the case.

The European Court of Justice’s Advocate General, Michal Bobek, released a non-binding opinion. The court is not required to follow his opinion but tends to reflect it in rulings.

Mr Bobek’s opinion states that Mr Schrems’ case would be limited to his own personal claim and that he is not entitled to bring a class action suit against the US tech giant.

He wrote: "A consumer who is entitled to sue his foreign contact partner in his own place of domicile, cannot involve, at the same time as his own claims, claims on the same subject assigned by other consumers."

The case could have huge ramifications on EU trade with the US and centres on whether Europeans enjoy enough protection from American mass surveillance.

Thousands of companies rely on current arrangements to transfer information like credit card payments between countries.

They are essential to firms of all sizes, and upholding them is critical to ensuring the economy can continue to grow without disruption, Facebook has previously said.


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