Student Group Challenges Facebook Privacy Policy

Dennis Faas's picture

Austrian students are reportedly planning legal action over the way Facebook handles customer privacy. However, the lawsuit would be launched against European data regulators based in the Republic of Ireland, not Facebook itself.

The students have formed a group dubbed Europe-v-Facebook. Its leader is law student Max Schrems, who made headlines in 2011 after exercising his right to demand a copy of all the data Facebook stored about him.

Schrems learned the company had collected so much data about him it had to be delivered on a CD rather than in print.

Shortly thereafter, Schrems discovered Facebook had retained large amounts of information that he had deleted from the social network's site.

Facebook Data Log Surprisingly Detailed

The data log on him contained virtually every action Schrems had ever taken on the Facebook site, and even contained data that involved him only indirectly.

For example, Facebook kept complete records on every event to which he'd been invited, even those Schrems had ignored or rejected.

It also became clear that when Schrems had "deleted" data from the site, Facebook had on occasion simply made it invisible on the website while continuing to store the information.

Schrems and his associates have now filed with Ireland's data regulators 22 separate complaints about Facebook. These regulators responded with recommendations for how Facebook could change its ways for the better.

Schrems insists that Facebook hasn't fully complied with any of the recommendations, and in some cases has actually misled regulators about its doing so. (Source:

Data Regulators Facing Court Challenge

As a result, Schrems' group hopes this new lawsuit will force Europe's data regulators to properly and transparently address Facebook's continuing privacy violations.

According to the group, such a legal battle is likely to go through a series of appeals and counter-appeals and could wind up in the European Court of Justice, the closest thing to a Supreme Court for cross-border laws in Europe.

To help fund the lawsuit, Schrems' group has set up a public donation "crowdfunding" site, where it seeks to raise up to 300,000 euros, equivalent to US $400,000. (Source:

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