500 euros damages: Schrems disappointed by judgment against Facebook


In the long-standing dispute between the Austrian data protection activist Max Schrems and the US company Facebook, the Vienna Regional Court passed a first judgment. According to this, the social network has to pay damages of 500 euros because it has not fulfilled its information obligations towards Schrems. The company was also required to provide it within 14 days “free and complete” Provide information about all processed personal data, the judgment says (PDF).

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Schrems filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook in Vienna in August 2014. The aim of the lawsuit was, among other things, to claim from Facebook a symbolic compensation of 500 euros for each party to the lawsuit. Initially, the process was delayed because the regional court had not been responsible. In January 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared such class actions to be inadmissible, so that Schrems could only continue the suit on his own behalf.

But he is by no means satisfied with the result. In his opinion, the judge Margit Slunsky-Jost excluded the data protection-related questions in her judgment and left it up to the higher courts to answer them. “The judge said at the trial that she was concentrating on the facts, because the tricky legal questions are resolved by the higher courts anyway. The decision is nevertheless a bit grotesque: The illegal data processing by Facebook is described on 36 pages – but only in just 19 sentences are almost all complaints dismissed “wrote Schrems in a first opinion.

No GDPR attempts identified

Apart from the incomplete information, the judge believes that Facebook has not violated the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Because despite the terms of use he is aware of, Schrems has concluded a contract so that Facebook can process the data until Schrems deletes his account.

It would also have “no illegal data processing operations are found” for which Facebook is responsible. This also applies to sensitive personal data on political attitudes or sexual orientation, which according to Article 9 of the GDPR are particularly protected. “It cannot be seen from the fact that the plaintiff visits FPÖ sites, for example, that he sympathizes with this party”, it says in the judgment. His interest in various parties and politicians announced on Facebook is not yet a political opinion.

Schrems announced immediately to try to appeal the verdict. In his opinion, Facebook will not accept the verdict. However, he does not yet expect the process to end quickly. “It is not unlikely that we will finally have some points clarified by the European Court of Justice. This means that Facebook could no longer apply its bizarre interpretations of the GDPR across Europe and must actually give users their data protection rights”wrote Schrems.

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