Questions regarding additional interested parties

Do I participate in the class action automatically, if I fill out a registration?

No. If we will join people to the existing class action we will inform registered users. The will have priority over non-registered user, but can decide freely if they want to join at that time.

Why can’t I participate right now?

So far we found roughly 25.000 participants. We have to check the submissions of every participant and administer the class. This is a huge amount of work, which is why we have to limit the number of participants. For practical reasons we can therefore only accept registrations of further interested parties for now.

How will interested parties be informed?

If there is an expansion of the class action, we will send an email to all pre-registered users.

Does it make sense to register?

Sure! We have to show Facebook that the users are worried about online privacy and want more transparency and control over their data. The more users register, the higher will be the pressure on Facebook to move in the right direction.

Questions regarding Participation

Why can’t users from the US and Canada participate?

Because users from the US and Canada have a contract with Facebook USA. The rest of the world has a contract with Facebook Ireland. The lawsuit only targets Facebook Ireland.

Can everyone else participate?

Yes. Every private Facebook user that is not a US or Canadian resident and not underage can participate. At the same time there could be cases where we cannot accept individual participants (e.g. if there are too many participants or if submitted details are missing).

Can underage users participate too?

Unfortunately not. For legal reasons you have to be an adult under the laws of your home country in order to participate.

I don’t have an active Facebook account. Can I participate too?

Unfortunately not. Participants must be in the same position as the main plaintiff. Other cases cannot be joined for legal reasons. If you have deactivated your account, or previously had an account it is also hard to verify these facts electronically. We know that Facebook also stores information about non-users, but it is factually impossible to prove in every case automatically that Facebook stores information about the individual person.

My information on Facebook is not fully correct. Can I participate?

Yes. As long as your account allows to identify you overall (e.g. through pictures, numbers, emails, messages, names) you can participate. If you have e.g. only altered your name but you are a normal user in all other respects you can still participate. You only have to ensure that the information you provide to us is fully correct, but you don’t have to correct you data on Facebook.
If you only have a typical “face account” where it is factually impossible to identify the owner (no pictures, wrong name) we cannot add you to the class action.

Questions regarding the Lawsuit

What is the intention of the lawsuit?

The main point is that the major internet companies do not respect our fundamental rights to privacy and data protection. Facebook is only one example of many, but one has to start somewhere.

Who is exactly being sued?

Outside of the US and Canada, Facebook is provided by "Facebook Ireland Ltd". This company has its headquarters in Dublin, thus falls under EU law, and is now being sued.

On what grounds are they being sued?

Facebook has a long list of violations. For this lawsuit we have chosen basic or obvious violations of the law: The privacy policy, participation in the PRISM program, Facebook’s graph search, apps on Facebook, tracking on other web pages (e.g. via the "like buttons"), "big data" systems that spy on users or the non-compliance with access requests.

Didn’t Ireland already say that it is all legal?

No. Facebook is usually pointing at a non-binding "audit" by the Irish DPC. The actual complaints procedure was however never decided during the last three years. In the two published "audit reports" the DPC has only made "recommendations". Unfortunately these "recommendations" are not only based on many incorrect facts, there are also serious reasons to suspect that the Irish authorities have deliberately not taken action against Facebook. Many observers assume that this was based on political reasons. In any event: An Austrian civil court is in no way bound by any findings of an Irish authority.

Financial Questions

Are there any costs for participants?

No. Everyone can join the class action free of charge.

Is there a financial risk for participants?

No. If the class action is not successful the financing provider (ROLAND ProzessFinanz) will cover all costs.

How much money will each participant get?

First of all it is dependent on the final ruling of the court and if Facebook is forced to make a payment (or if Facebook e.g. agrees to a settlement). It is not predictable how much the court will award. In any event we will have to subtract the costs of the procedure from the awarded amount. Another factor will be the number of participants among which the costs will be distributed.

Can I donate my share?

Yes. If the case is successful, we will offer an easy option to donate your share to privacy and data protection projects, should you wish to donate it.

How do you fund the class action?

The class action is funded by ROLAND ProzessFinanz, a German legal financing provider. Legal financing works rather simple: ROLAND pays for all costs of the procedure (e.g. lawyers, court fees), in return they get 20% of the awarded amount if the class action is successful. By using a legal financing provider the major problem for filing a lawsuit in Austria (the risk of legal costs and court fees) is taken care of, for an award if the claim is successful.

How much are you claiming?

We are suing Facebook for € 500 in damages and unjust enrichment. This is intentionally low because our main aim is to enforce our fundamental rights. In similar cases courts have always awarded higher amounts (at least € 750 for minor violations, up to a couple of € 1,000 in other cases).

How much will be paid to the legal financing provider?

ROLAND ProzessFinanz will get 20% of the awarded amount (after costs). This is a very reasonable quota as average amounts are ranging between 30 and 50%.

Aren’t just the lawyers making money off class actions?

No, not in Austria.
The existing plaintiff and organizer of the class action (Max Schrems) will not get a single cent. Actually he is not even allowed to receive a benefit for legal reasons.
The lawyers, legal financing providers and other external service providers are of course paid, as they are only doing their job. At the same time we ensured a low cost, which is also mentioned in the contracts. In the end this should ensure that the highest possible amount stays with the participants.

Legal Questions

How does an Austrian "class action" work?

There is no law on class actions in Austria. The Austrian procedural law does not provide a US style "class action". Because of this situation, a couple of smart lawyers had the idea to group claims by "assigning" them to one person who can then sue on behalf of everyone else. The single plaintiff later redistributes the awarded amount. Under this system it is possible to file a "class action" in Austria. It made a lot of sense to use this system in the current case as well, because there is already a primary plaintiff (Max Schrems) who wished to file a lawsuit against Facebook. Others can now participate in this existing lawsuit.

Who exactly am I transferring my claims to?

The existing plaintiff is Max Schrems. He has filed the existing lawsuit in Vienna and is also known from a privacy procedure in Ireland. For legal reasons it is necessary to assign all claims to one person who pursuits the claims on behalf of everyone else. If the lawsuit is successful the awards will be redistributed among all class members.

Why did you file the lawsuit in Austria?

The main plaintiff (Max Schrems) of the existing lawsuit has his residence in Vienna (Austria). Under EU law consumers can always sue businesses at the relevant court of their home country. Moreover, the Austrian courts have rather reasonable fees compared to other countries.

Is the lawsuit already filed?

Yes. The lawsuit was already filed with the court in Vienna. Because it took a lot of effort to put this lawsuit together and there are many other people in the same position, it made sense to also invite other users to join the lawsuit. This is possible by "assigning" your claim to the existing plaintiff.

How are my claims joined during the procedure?

Under Austrian procedural law one can add claims that are closely related to the existing claims during a running procedure. This is done through an expansion of the existing lawsuit and may be done until the day of the last hearing.

What are the legal risks for the participants?

Generally there is no direct risk. All costs and legal risks are with the main plaintiff (Max Schrems). Participants do not have to deal with Facebook or the lawsuit directly. The main plaintiff is factually a "buffer" between Facebook and the participants. He is again financed through the legal financing provider. This means that overall there is no financial risk for participants.
Of course Facebook could theoretically try to take other actions against users or participants. Facebook could e.g. delete accounts of participants. Such actions are however very unlikely, would itself be hardly legal and very likely a huge PR disaster.

Is an Austrian court decision even enforceable against Facebook?

Yes. We are suing Facebook Ireland, located in Dublin. Within the European Union all member states have to fully enforce court rulings from any other member state. A ruling from Austria has therefore the same effect as a ruling from Ireland. The fact that Facebook is a US company is irrelevant, because all users outside of the US and Canada got a contract with Facebook Ireland. These are more than 80% of all worldwide Facebook users.

Where can I find the court documents?

We publish all documents here.