The 26 year old law student from Austria has convinced Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) users to unite in a lawsuit against the Irish subsidiary of the social media giant, which is responsible for all accounts outside the U.S. and Canada.
The action accuses Facebook Ireland of violating European privacy law, and is filed at the Commercial Court for Vienna, Schrems home city.
This is the second action that he has brought against Facebook. In 2011 a previous lawsuit made user information requests easier and led to restrictions on the use of facial recognition software.
New allegations against Facebook
Schrems alleges that the way in which Facebook monitors member activity is in breach of EU law, and that the company cooperated with a U.S. surveillance scheme called Prism.
Although Facebook admitted complying with information requests related to national security from U.S. government agencies, it has denied having any knowledge of Prism before it was outlined in leaked US government documents.
The claim attacks the monitoring of user activity on external sites through the use of like buttons, and analysis of users through the use of “big data systems”.
Facebook has not commented on the wider case and according to BBC News does not plan to do so until it has been served the relevant papers.
Huge public response
Schrems decided to limit the number of participants to 25,000 in order to verify each account, but his site has been inundated with applications.
At one point he claims that a new participant was signing up every six seconds.
Schrems intends for the lawsuit to become a model case for the defence of European rights against technology companies who develop products that may comply with U.S. law, but are not adapted to other jurisdictions.
The action seeks injunctions against Facebook, in addition to damages of €500 per claimant, and Facebook has several weeks to respond to the suit.
Robert Bond, a partner at the law firm Speechly Bircham, stated that “it remains to be seen whether or not Facebook will try to settle as reputational damage may be worse than a financial penalty.”