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Austrian student’s privacy battle against Facebook suffers setback

An Austrian student’s legal battle against Facebook, accusing it of helping the U.S. security service collect personal data, suffered a setback after a Vienna court rejected his case on procedural grounds, both sides said on Wednesday.
The social media giant hailed the ruling, saying it showed the class-action lawsuit had been unnecessary and defending its record on guarding customers’ privacy.
But 27-year-old Max Schrems said he would appeal against the decision and fight on, as the court had not killed off the case entirely, but referred it on to a higher tribunal.
The law student is claiming 500 euros ($556) in damages for each of the more 25,000 signatories of his lawsuit – the latest in a series of European challenges to U.S. technology firms and their handling of personal data.
Facebook’s lawyer presented a long list of procedural objections to the Vienna court in April, questioning Schrems’
status as a private Facebook consumer and whether the 25,000 plaintiffs were legally allowed to confer their rights on him.
The court said Schrems was not a private consumer and that it had no jurisdiction over the case, Schrems said in an emailed statement. The court was not immediately available for comment.
“This finding by the court is really very strange. Unfortunately it seems like the court wanted to forward this hot potato to the higher courts,” Schrems’ lawyer, Wolfram Proksch, said in a statement.
Schrems accuses Facebook of aiding the U.S. National Security Agency in running its PRISM program, which mined the personal data of Facebook users.
“This litigation was unnecessary and we’re pleased that the court has roundly rejected these claims,” a spokesman for Facebook said. “We remain happy to work with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, to address any questions about our commitment to protecting people’s information.”
European politicians have grown increasingly concerned about Facebook, Google and other American companies’ domination of the Internet industry, and have sought ways to curb their power.
Schrems also has a case pending at the European Court of Justice financed by crowd-sourcing, which mainly relates to the so-called Safe Harbor agreement governing data transfers from Europe to the United States.
($1 = 0.8989 euros)

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