(Corrects headline, first bullet point, lead and paragraph 1 to
show campaign group plans to sue Irish regulator, not Facebook,
in the first instance)
* Criticises investigation by Irish data regulator
* Case to be paid for by crowd-funding
By Georgina Prodhan
VIENNA, Dec 4 An Austrian student group plans to
go to court in a bid to make Facebook Inc, the world's
biggest social network, do more to protect the privacy of its
hundreds of millions of members.
Privacy campaign group europe-v-facebook, which has been
lobbying for better data protection by Facebook for over a year,
said on Tuesday it planned to go to court to appeal against
decisions by the data protection regulator in Ireland, where
Facebook has its international headquarters.
The move is one of a number of campaigns against the giants
of the internet, which are under pressure from investors to
generate more revenue from their huge user bases but which also
face criticism for storing and sharing personal information.
Internet search engine Google, for example, has
been told by the European Union to make changes to its new
across its services including YouTube, gmail and social network
Google+, and from which users cannot opt out.
Europe-v-facebook has won some concessions from Facebook,
notably pushing it to switch off its facial recognition feature
But the group said on Tuesday the changes did not go far
enough and it was disappointed with the response of the Irish
Data Protection Commissioner, which had carried out an audit
after the campaign group filed numerous complaints.
"The Irish obviously have no great political interest in
going up against these companies because they're so dependent on
the jobs they create," europe-v-facebook founder Max Schrems
Gary Davies, Ireland's deputy data protection commissioner,
denied Facebook's investment in Ireland had influenced
regulation of the company.
"We have handled this in a highly professional and focused
way and we have brought about huge changes in the way Facebook
handles personal data," he told Reuters.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. It is due to hold a conference call later on Tuesday to
include representatives from Facebook Ireland.
Schrems, who has filed 22 complaints with the Irish
regulator, said more than 40,000 Facebook users who had
requested a copy of the data Facebook was holding on them had
not received anything several months after making a request.
The law student also questioned why Facebook had only
switched off facial recognition for users in the European Union,
even though Ireland is the headquarters for all of Facebook's
users outside the United States and Canada.
Facebook is under pressure to reverse a trend of slowing
revenue growth by selling more valuable advertising, which
requires better profiling of its users.
Investors are losing patience with the social network, whose
shares have dropped 40 percent in value since the company's
record-breaking $104 billion initial public offering in May.
Last month, Facebook proposed to combine its user data with
that of its recently acquired photo-sharing service Instagram,
loosen restrictions on emails between its members and share data
with other businesses and affiliates that it owns.
Facebook is also facing a class-action lawsuit in the United
States, where it is charged with violating privacy rights by
publicising users' "likes" without giving them a way to opt out.
A U.S. judge late on Monday gave his preliminary approval to
a second attempt to settle the case by paying users up to $10
each out of a settlement fund of $20 million.
Ireland also hosts the European headquarters of other
high-tech firms including Microsoft and Google thanks
to generous tax breaks.
Europe-v-facebook said it believed its Irish lawsuit had the
potential to become a test case for data protection law and had
a good chance of landing up in the European Court of Justice.
Schrems said the case could cost the group around 100,000
euros ($130,000), which it hoped to raise via crowd-funding -
money provided by a collection of individuals - on the Internet.
($1 = 0.7689 euros)
(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by