Among other items, there is scepticism around Facebook’s sharing of personal information with its affiliates as being ‘only for security purposes’ and the legality of Facebook selling the private details of users to businesses for advertising.
Up until now, Facebook has used delay tactics to try to avoid the lawsuit: including arguing it is not a valid lawsuit under Irish law (they are headquartered there) and refusing service of the German version of the lawsuit.
Now, Facebook will have to face an EU court on April 9.
What are the possible consequences for Facebook?
The Austrian claimants are requesting a suspension of data usage by Facebook as it violates European privacy laws. They are also asking for a nominal compensation of 500 euros ($A693) per claimant.
The cost would not be the largest problem for Facebook as the EU court could declare its questionable business practices illegal under European law and stop them from doing business until they change their business model. There is a strong prediction that this last outcome has a good chance of success due to the strict privacy laws in Europe.
What does Australia think about it?
Australia takes privacy very seriously, in particular with respect to social media.
Last month, a woman’s ex-boyfriend posted sexually explicit images and videos on Facebook after their relationship had ended. She was awarded damages for serious invasions of privacy which normally is not available unless financial loss is proven.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (‘ALRC’) has made submissions to change the privacy laws to ensure financial awards are available for such invasions of privacy and emotional distress.
The ALRC are watching the outcomes of this privacy issue in Europe closely. So watch out for new privacy reforms later this year in Australia.