Privacy campaigner can sue Facebook, EU court hears

For its part, Facebook has limited itself to saying: "Today's opinion supports the decisions of two courts that Mr Schrems's claims can not proceed as "class action" on behalf of other consumers in Austrian courts".

Mr Schrems' complaint has primarily been heard in Dublin so far.

That's according to the non-binding opinion of the EU advocate general Michal Bobek on behalf of the European Court of Justice.

The activist said that pursuing a personal case would still "enable us to debate the illegal practices of Facebook in an open court for the first time".

Max Schrems has been engaged in a legal battle with the social media giant since 2011, centred on his claims that Facebook collects private data in excess of what is allowed under European Union law and allows United States intelligence access to the material.

They had assigned their claims to his legal action after he invited Facebook users to do so online.

Seven other Facebook users, living in in Austria, Germany and India, had assigned their claims for allegations of the same violations to Schrems.

It has seen Schrems launch a number of sueballs at Zuck and co, including one against Facebook Ireland in his home court of Vienna over his private account.

Class action suits, in which many people sue together, are not as common in Europe as they are in the United States, but Schrems argued that individual Facebook users could not afford the legal costs of individually fighting their cases against the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Facebook also argued that Mr Schrems' Facebook page was effectively "professional".

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Verification of this must still come from the Austrian court, Bobek noted.

Though he initially used the social network for private purposes exclusively, under a false name, he has used a Facebook account under his name since 2010 and he created a Facebook page in 2011.

He used it for uploading photos, posting online and using the messenger service to chat.

Schrems also recruited a team of 10 to support him in his "campaign against Facebook".

Only in "exceptional scenarios" could an ulterior change in the account's use be taken into account.

"Knowledge, experience, civic engagement or the fact of having reached certain renown due to litigation do not in themselves prevent someone from being a consumer", the press release on Bobek's opinion continues.

Schrems said he can still achieve something, even if the class action suit doesn't work out. Such an extension would, in particular, allow to concentrate claims in one jurisdiction and, for collective actions, to choose the place of the more favourable courts, by assigning all claims to a consumer domiciled in that jurisdiction.

The Advocate General said it could lead to "unrestrained targeted assignment" to consumers in any jurisdiction with more favourable case-law, lower costs or more generous jurisdictional aid, potentially leading to some jurisdictions being "overburdened".

They represent volunteers who had signed up to be part of his effort to sue Facebook over alleged privacy rules violations - one of several tactics he has taken in his battle against the USA company.

It was pointed out that since taking the case Schrems has published two books, delivered lectures, registered numerous websites, won awards and founded the association Verein zur Durchsetzung des Grundrechts auf Datenschutz.

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