Facebook’s Win Sets Privacy Precedent

Quebec magistrate Michel Déziel, J.S.C. recently dismissed a class action lawsuit against Facebook over alleged consumer privacy law violations. “Quebec courts do not have jurisdiction on the litigation,” stated Deziel in his judgement. “All the users of Facebook accepted, while joining the site, to submit all the eventual recourses to the California courts of the district of Santa Clara. Customers are not subject to the direction of the Civil Code of Quebec since their adhesion to the site is free.”

Quebec civil law is based on French law and this Facebook victory establishes a case law precedent which may be used to challenge the jurisdiction of the impending European Union Data Privacy Directive in EU courts, using French legal principles.
The precedent grants Facebook the right to have privacy suits heard in an American court exclusively and also calls into question the ability of EU consumer privacy laws to truly impact American companies which utilize implicit “opt-in” rules for membership to free services.
Although Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission and EU justice commissioner, believes that EU rules ought to apply to European data “independently of the area of the world in which [Europeans’] data is being processed,” this is virtually unworkable on a country-by-country basis because the definition of consent for data usage varies by region.
The Facebook case may be used by other American firms operating abroad to support their claims that membership agreements and privacy policy acknowledgements are firm legal equivalents of data usage consent, and American court jurisdiction.
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