An online privacy group has said a major lawsuit it aims to bring against Facebook could be worth “hundreds of millions of Euro” to people in Ireland.
Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) is inviting people to join a ‘mass action lawsuit’ against the social media giant over a recent data breach which saw personal details of millions of users published online.
It comes after the names, emails and phone numbers of 533 million people in more than 100 countries were published on a hacking forum earlier this month.
Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show shortly after the breach was revealed, Newstalk Technology Correspondent Jess Kelly said it would pose "a huge headache" for both Facebook and the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).
Facebook has said the information was publicly available and was ‘scraped’ from the website using a vulnerability in its system that has since been patched.
The Data Protection Commissioner has now officially launched an investigation into the incident to see whether there was a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
DRI is now encouraging people affected by the leak to join its action, which will be the first of its kind to be taken against tech companies in Europe.
"Hundreds of millions"
The group's Director Antoin O'Lachnain told Newstalk that the cases could result in significant compensation.
“Going by cases that have occurred in the past, it could be anywhere between €100 per person and low thousands per person.
“So, for say, close to a million complainants in Ireland, if a million complainants have been affected by this, this could be hundreds of millions of Euros potentially.”
"Change the behaviour"
DRI Chair Dr TJ McIntyre said forcing companies to pay for privacy breaches is, “the most effective way to really change the behaviour of these big tech companies.”
“The prospect of class and mass actions is going to be a major impetus for the largest and most profitable of tech companies to become legally compliant and stop treating user data like a commodity,” he said.
“Facebook is a uniquely powerful company, reaching into the lives of its billion-plus users – and they need to get this right.”
The case will be filed in the Irish courts, which do not provide for class action lawsuits like those that have become common in the US.
DRI said ‘mass action’ is a more general, less legally specific term; however, it said the lawsuit still involves “large numbers of people are represented in a single complaint, with the same or very similar facts and laws applying to all of their situations.”
It said comparable cases in other jurisdictions have resulted in individual damages of between €300 and €12,000.
You can find out if you were affected by the breach at the DRI campaign website, facebookbreach.eu.