Big Data

Lawsuit Claiming Facebook in Cahoots with NSA Gains 25,000 members

Austrian student Max Schrems sits with files about his activities on his Facebook account that Facebook handed over to him, in Vienna, Austria.

Austrian student Max Schrems sits with files about his activities on his Facebook account that Facebook handed over to him, in Vienna, Austria. // Ronald Zak/AP File Photo

Max Schrems has launched a class action lawsuit against Facebook, claiming that Facebook's monitoring of a user's activity is in violation of European Union laws. More boldly, he claims Facebook cooperates with the U.S. surveillance scheme Prism. The case will request $667 in damages for the first 25,000 members of the class. 

While Facebook has not commented on the lawsuit (as they have not yet been formally served with papers) they have previously said they did not know about Prism before it was publicly leaked.

Thus far, 25,000 Facebook users have signed up as participants to this class. Any users outside of the U.S. and Canada are able to sign up, as the case will be against Facebook Ireland, rather than Facebook USA. Facebook Ireland manages all accounts outside of North America. Schrems plans to file the case in Vienna, his home city, at the Commercial Court. 

Here's what Schrem believes Facebook is doing wrong, via the BBC:

  • Graph Search - a facility allowing users to find out about other members' activities on the social network
  • External website tracking - monitoring members through the Like buttons embedded into third-party webpages
  • Big data analysis - the ability to gain insights into Facebook members' by data-crunching the billions of interactions people have with the site every year

"It is not an epic fight with Facebook but more of a general question of where we are going and if we respect our fundamental rights in Europe," Schrem explained to the BBC. "Right now I have the feeling that we love to point the finger at the US in Europe, and say they are not respecting our privacy. But the reality is that we don't really do anything about it - we complain, then go home and drink beer."

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// December 19
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