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European student activist group preparing to take Facebook to court due to privacy concerns

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Facebook Android login screen (stock)
Facebook Android login screen (stock)

Whenever Facebook proposes changes to its policies or how it handles user data, the userbase often responds with outrage — but that usually comes in the form of disgruntled wall posts. Last June, only a tiny portion of Facebook users voted on changes to Facebook's privacy policy, but an Austrian student group known as Europe vs. Facebook has consistently been at the forefront of those pushing the social media giant to comply with European privacy laws. As The New York Times reports, the group is currently planning to bring Facebook to court for the company's failure to update its policies to comply with European law.

Facebook has been under watch by the EU for the better part of the last year — last December, Facebook complied with Ireland as the country dug into Facebook's security policies at the urging of the student activist group. But organizer Max Schrems told The New York Times that Facebook had only complied with about 10 percent of what the group asked for. "Therefore, we are preparing to go to court," Schrems said. To prepare for it's campaign, Europe vs. Facebook is currently soliciting donations; the group says it'll use all funds received for the legal expenses related to the proposed case and will detail how all of the money is spent on its site.

The group feels Facebook isn't respecting Europe's tighter privacy requirements

Europe vs. Facebook first petitioned the office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to investigate Facebook back in 2010. The DPC announced an agreement with Facebook in September that would implement a number of changes, including disabling its automatic facial recognition features and a requirement for Facebook to shorten how long it retains consumer data. However, the Europe vs. Facebook group believes Facebook is still violating European law in many areas, including letting users download an archive of their complete Facebook history — right now, users can only download from 2010 onward.

The group also found issue with Facebook's privacy policy, which it says is too broad and violates the EU's more stringent requirements. "It is basically a collection of American legalese, which is intentionally vague and gives the company adequate leeway to do basically anything they want with your data,'' Mr. Schrems told The New York Times. Europe's tighter privacy restrictions have been an issue for more companies than just Facebook — Google is also under fire to adjust its policies to meet EU requirements. Meanwhile, if you're a Facebook user concerned with your privacy, now is the time to act — you have until December 10th to vote on changes to the company's data use policies, but it won't be binding unless more than 30 percent of Facebook's userbase votes.