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Max Schrems and 25,000 others poke at Facebook’s privacy policy in latest ECJ proceedings

24 July 2017

Following his ‘Safe Harbor’ victory, Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems is again acting as a thorn in Facebook’s side as he attempts to challenge a variety of its data protection practices, ranging from its tracking of users’ activity on external sites, absence of consent mechanisms, and aspects of its privacy policy. What distinguishes this case is the fact that Schrems is attempting to claim on behalf of 25,000 other consumers across the globe.

After appeals through the Austrian courts, the Austrian Supreme Court has recently referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to decide whether Schrems can be considered a consumer and whether he can claim on behalf of 25,000 others, some of whom are not resident in Austria or even the EU.

An opinion is due from Advocate General, Michal Bobek on 7 November 2017, with the ECJ decision expected later in the year.

This is the latest in a string of European claims against US tech firms and their handling of personal data and could have huge ramifications for companies that are slacking when it comes to personal data policies. The time and cost involved in litigating over data issues frequently deters the individual claimant from pursuing an action, but being able to join together in action, on a global scale, will see consumers considerably empowered.

This will be compounded by the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, which imposes stricter obligations on companies in and, sometimes even outside, of the EU.

It is therefore critical that companies, technological and otherwise, have a GDPR implementation plan to ensure they are compliant in time for next May.

In the meantime, watch this space for the Advocate General’s opinion in early November.

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