Austrian students to sue Facebook over privacy

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 06:50 hrs

London: An Austrian student group will be challenging decisions made by the Irish regulator of Facebook in court over concerns about data protection.

The 'Europe vs Facebook' group has said it will challenge the social networking site's privacy policy in Ireland, where its European offices are based.

Max Schrems, who has filed 22 complaints with the Irish regulator since 2010, said more than 40,000 Facebook users who had requested a copy of the data Facebook was holding on them had not received anything several months after making a request, the Telegraph reports.

"The Irish obviously have no great political interest in going up against these companies because they're so dependent on the jobs they create," Schrems told an international news agency.

According to the report, Schrems is part of a ten-strong group of students at the University of Vienna, who have successfully agitated for the removal of Facebook's facial recognition software, but claim the social network needs to go much further to protect users' data.

Facebook, due to hold a conference call later on Tuesday to answer customer concerns about its privacy policy, said its data protection policies exceeded European requirements.

"The latest Data Protection report demonstrates not only how Facebook adheres to European data protection law but also how we go beyond it, in achieving best practice," a Facebook spokesman said.

"Nonetheless we have some vocal critics who will never be happy whatever we do and whatever the DPC concludes," he added.

Gary Davies, Ireland's deputy data protection commissioner, denied Facebook's investment in Ireland had influenced regulation of the company, the report said.

"We have handled this in a highly professional and focused way and we have brought about huge changes in the way Facebook handles personal data," he said.

According to the report, Europe vs Facebook said it believed its Irish battle had the potential to become a test case for data protection law and had a good chance of landing up in the European Court of Justice. 

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