The Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook over its alleged privacy violations, the judicial body said Thursday. The litigation was brought forward by Maximilian Schrems, an Austrian national who claims the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant violated a number of data protection clauses pertaining to his personal Facebook account, as well as accounts of seven other users from Germany, Austria, and India. Additionally, the lawsuit had over 25,000 signatories from around the world, thus seeking class-action status. One of the plaintiff's demands was to have a competent Austrian court nullify certain terms of Facebook's user agreement. Mr. Schrems also demanded an injunction against Facebook that would prevent it from using his and other plaintiffs' data for any purpose or transfer it to third parties. A claim for damages was part of the lawsuit as well, seeking €500 ($620) for every signatory, or over $15.5 million in total.
The CJEU refused to hold a trial but said Mr. Schrems is within his rights to sue Facebook as an individual in his home country, thus dismissing the plaintiff's demand for the litigation to be awarded class-action status. The lawsuit specifically targets Facebook Ireland, the company's European headquarters, and was filed in Austria before being referred to the CJEU. The political bloc's top court is now returning it to its country of origin, so long as the plaintiff is willing to continue pursuing it on his own.
The 2014 lawsuit had Mr. Schrems claim Facebook infringed on his rights on several occasions, specifically mentioning the company assisted at least one U.S. intelligence agency. The world's largest social media network repeatedly denied the allegations, stating it always operated in accordance with all applicable legislation in the European Union. Facebook also argued Mr. Schrems cannot sue it based on consumer protection laws as he used the social network for professional purposes, which the plaintiff denied. The defendant also said a class-action lawsuit is impossible because Ireland doesn't recognize any such form of litigation, whereas Austrian courts don't have jurisdiction over it, which is why the case ended up being referred to the CJEU after being inspected by two lower judicial bodies. It's presently unclear whether Mr. Schrems will continue pursuing the matter. Earlier this week, Facebook vowed to give European users more control over their data and the manner in which it's used. The company and its subsidiaries have a long history of privacy-related legal disputes on the Old Continent.