Workshop with Max Schrems, Professor Hess, Professor Hoffman and Mr Proksch

20 July 2017

On the 19th of July 2017, Max Schrems visited the MPI along with his lawyers following the hearing of a case at the CJEU C-496/16 Schrems. In 2014, Mr. Schrems brought a collective action against Facebook Ireland Ltd before the district court in Vienna, the court for the place in which he is domiciled as a consumer per Art.16 Brussels I Regulation. In order to bring this Austrian-style collective action – in which numerous violations of EU privacy laws are alleged – Mr. Schrems had created an application that allowed other Facebook users – around 25,000 users thus far, both of EU and third-country status – to assign their rights to him under Austrian law. The questions referred to the CJEU by the Austrian Supreme Court concerned: 1) whether Schrems could be understood to be acting as a consumer for the purposes of Art.15 Brussels I, and 2) whether he could rely on Art.16 of the Regulation as a consumer to found jurisdiction in the Austrian or Viennese courts not only for his but also the assigned claims, whether the assignors are domiciled in the same Member State, in another Member State or in a non-EU country.

Mr. Schrems explained his interest in data protection and privacy issues, the third party financing of the Austrian claim, the questions referred to the CJEU as well as the possible outcome and consequences of the preliminary ruling. He also discussed his involvement in related litigation which has attracted considerable media attention, namely in the EU-US Safe Harbour case (a judgment of the CJEU of 2014 also bearing his name – C-362/14 Schrems I), his interactions with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner and the possibility – with the Court’s judgment having been passed back to the Irish courts and a further claim having been initiated by the Irish DPC against Mr. Schrems and Facebook – that another preliminary ruling might be requested from the Irish High Court on this issue, as anticipated by the DPC.

Professor Hess and the researchers of Department I asked M. Schrems about the underlying strategy of his lawsuit, the cultural differences between the concepts of privacy in the United States and in Continental Europe and the prospects of data protection in the European Union.

The Opinion of AG Bobek in this case will be delivered on the 31st of October.

(Photo from Twitter account: @GSchusterschitz, https://twitter.com/GSchusterschitz)
(Photo from Twitter account: @GSchusterschitz, https://twitter.com/GSchusterschitz)