Facebook faces 25,000-strong lawsuit over privacy breach

Facebook is facing a 25,000-strong class action lawsuit after being accused of breaking European privacy regulations.

Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, who is leading the case, has limited the lawsuit to 25,000, but an additional 55,000 users of the social network have also registered.

Read more: Google restructures in Europe following new antitrust lawsuits

The group has accused Facebook of tracking user data without permission and collaborating with the NSA’s PRISM surveillance programme, which caused shockwaves around the world in 2013 as part of Edward Snowden’s revelations. Facebook’s monitoring of when user’s “like” certain pages is also cited as part of the lawsuit.

"Basically we are asking Facebook to stop mass surveillance, to (have) a proper privacy policy that people can understand, but also to stop collecting data of people that are not even Facebook users," Schrems told AFP. "There is a wide number of issues in the lawsuit and we hope to kind of win all of them and to get a landmark case against US data-gathering companies."

The case has been brought against Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, which is responsible for all accounts outside the US and Canada, making up approximately 80 per cent of the site’s userbase.

Although the lawsuit is only asking for roughly €500 per person, which adds up to €12.5 million across the 25,000 signees, if successful, it could lead to a huge number of similar complaints and settlements.

The case also has potentially significant ramifications for other US-based companies like Yahoo, Google and Twitter and how they are able to collect and use data from users based in other countries.

Schrems is keen to stress that he is not suing Facebook for financial gain but to ensure that the law is upheld and that fundamental human rights are protected.

Read more: LinkedIn to fork out $1.25 million after password hack lawsuit

"We have privacy laws here in Europe but we are not enforcing (them)," he explained. "The core issue is: do online companies have to stick to the rules or do they live somewhere in the Wild West where they can do whatever they want to do?"