Dutch mass claim against U.S. tech companies for breach of privacy

A Dutch collective files a mass claim against American tech companies for violating the privacy of internet users. They are accused of the large-scale collection, trading and misuse of personal data of millions of Dutch people.

The foundation The Privacy Collective is behind the claim, writes Het Financieele Dagblad. It is the first collective claim for privacy violations based on the new mass claim rules that were introduced at the beginning of this year, says the foundation’s lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm. This time it is not the world players of big tech who will be sued, such as Google and Facebook, but the slightly smaller tech giants Oracle and Salesforce.

“Many people know Google and Facebook from all kinds of scandals”, says Alberdingk Thijm in the CCeit Radio 1 News. “We think it’s important to also address these parties on their behaviour because they are very big in this market, but not many people know them. That’s also the problem: many people don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes with their personal data.”

Data via cookies

In this way, companies can advertise in a targeted way, which is extremely valuable, says the lawyer. “They make billions with it. We as consumers are becoming a kind of raw material for the companies they trade in.” According to the foundation those profiles are illegally shared with commercial parties. Users have not given permission to do so, whereas the AVG Privacy Act requires it.

Salesforce does not agree with the allegations, the company says to the FD. “We intend to prove that they are unfounded.” Oracle says in a response in the EU, it has limited data collection and “no direct role” in digital ad auctions. According to the company, the claim is “unsubstantiated” and the lawsuit is misleading.

Billion euros

Alberdingk Thijm has confidence in a successful outcome of the lawsuit. “This is partly due to rulings made by the Council of State in another case that we find much less serious than what is at issue here This concerns compensation of 500 euros that was awarded earlier this year to a patient of the Pieter Baan Centre, after the data of that person had been shared by the clinic with other parties.

The lawyer is therefore counting on about 500 euros compensation per person per accused company, which would cause the total claim to run into billions. “Those are big claims in total.” The case is supported by an English claim fund, which pays for the case and in return receives a portion of any damages. “So we have a lot of financial resources to take action against these tech giants.”

There is also a mass claim against Facebook for privacy violations. Last month it turned out that tens of thousands of users had reported to the Consumers’ Association and the Data Privacy Foundation, who initiated the lawsuit.