VIENNA Aug 1 Austrian law student Max Schrems appealed to a billion Facebook users around the world on Friday to join a class-action lawsuit against Facebook's alleged violations of its users' privacy.
Schrems, a thorn in Facebook's side who has a case against the social network pending at the European Court of Justice, has filed a claim at Vienna's commercial court and invited others to join the action at www.fbclaim.com using their Facebook login.
Under Austrian law, a group of people may transfer their financial claims to a single person - in this case, Schrems. Legal proceedings are then effectively run as a class action.
Schrems is claiming damages of 500 euros ($670) per user for alleged data violations, including aiding the U.S. National Security Agency in running its Prism programme, which mined the personal data of users of Facebook and other web services.
He is also seeking injunctions under EU data-protection law at the court in data-privacy-friendly Austria. "Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection," he said.
Users from anywhere outside the United States and Canada may sign up to join the Austrian case, since Facebook runs all its international operations from fellow EU country Ireland. The case relies largely on the EU Data Protection Directive.
A specialist financier will bear the legal costs if Schrems loses the case and will take 20 percent of the damages if he wins, meaning users can join the case at no financial risk.
Facebook has come under fire before for allegedly violating data-protection laws. Most recently, Britain's data watchdog began investigation whether a 2012 experiment on unwitting users, in which it tried to alter their emotional state to see if their postings turned more positive or negative.
The world's biggest social network, Facebook now has 1.32 billion users. It posted a 61 percent increase in sales in the second quarter thanks to mobile advertising, sending its shares to a record high and valuing the company at almost $200 billion.
No one from Facebook was not immediately available for comment. ($1 = 0.7473 Euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Larry King)