A court in Austria will rule in the next few weeks whether it has the jurisdiction to hear a class action lawsuit brought against Facebook. Some 25,000 users - led by Austrian law graduate Max Schrems - accuse Facebook of violating European privacy laws in the way it collects and forwards data.
Today, in case Case C-362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner, Advocate General Yves Bot takes the view that the existence of a Commission decision finding that a third country ensures an adequate level of protection of the personal data transferred cannot eliminate or even reduce the national supervisory authorities’ powers under the directive on the processing of personal data. He considers furthermore that the Commission decision is invalid.
By a decision published this morning, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest European jurisdiction, repealed the Safe Harbor agreement. This agreement in effect since 2000, allows data transfers between Europe and the United States under different versions, authorised the processing of European citizens' data by US companies, with fewer guarantees than those existing in Europe.
Max Schrems, an Austrian citizen, has put Facebook on trial since the monitoring by the NSA of his data hosted by Facebook had an impact on his freedom and privacy. The CJEU today confirmed his viewpoint by invalidating the Safe Harbor and held that the European Commission abused its power by approving it. The CJEU also affirmed that a local data protection authority may dissent a European agreement if guarantees granted to citizens were modified.
The Irish High Court refers Facebook privacy case to the Court of Justice of the European Unionin order to determine the legal status of data transfers under Standard Contractual Clauses. Therefore, Facebook could face questions from the CJEU about the validity of the model clauses it uses to transfer data outside of the 28-member-state bloc.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Thursday ruled that Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems cannot lodge a class action suit against Facebook Ireland. Schrems was seeking to stake the collective claim on the behalf of 25,000 people. The judges instead said he can file an individual case. Schrems maintains that Facebook violates the privacy of European-based users.