A new wave of mass litigation has begun all over the world as far as the processing of big data is concerned: many companies operating social networks or providing services through the web are allegedly violating the privacy rights of myriads of people and therefore being named in civil proceedings.
While data breaches may cause limited, if any, damage to a single individual (making them unlikely to bring individual claims), aggrieved groups affected by the breach may seek compensation for the aggregate damage via class actions. Recently Mr. Schrems, a young Austrian activist and lawyer, brought an action before the Regional Civil Court of Vienna against Facebook Ireland Limited, alleging that the defendant had committed numerous infringements of data protection provisions and seeking compensation for the damages suffered by him and thousands of other Facebook users. In addition to this lawsuit, similar proceedings against Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Google have been commenced in France, Belgium, Germany and also in Italy.
In the United States, Facebook Inc. and the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica have been sued for obtaining information from 50 million of the social media company’s users without permission. Facebook is also facing a class action in the Northern District of California for other alleged misconduct including unfair and fraudulent business practices, consumer bait-and-switch, and invasion of privacy.
Furthermore, focusing on cryptocurrencies, Mt. Gox, one of the biggest bitcoin exchanges based in Tokio, is facing bankruptcy procedures both in Japan and the United States after the loss of 850,000 bitcoins, valued at more than $450 million at the time, stolen due to a massive hack in 2014. In September 2018 Mt.Gox’s bankruptcy and rehabilitation trustees reported that they had collected more than 617 million dollars, which could be sufficient to reimburse claims completely and invited the investors, in accordance with the Civil Rehabilitation Act of Japan, to file rehabilitation claims. After this announcement the US investors have asked the federal court in California for a stay in the case sued against Mt.Gox until February 28, 2019 in order to get a clear picture over whatever they are going to be compensated in full or partially.
This seminar is an opportunity for lawyers, scholars, and students to discuss, study and reflect on the main procedural issues that have emerged in these cases both with regards to the problems inherent to the aggregate treatment of individual claims and with reference to the new challenges imposed by the processing of massive amounts of personal data in the digital age.