More than 17,000 people have signed up to a class action suit against Facebook, launched by Austrian law student Max Schrems.

On 1 August, Schrems asked Facebook users to join his claim, filed at Vienna's commercial court, which urges Facebook to implement privacy changes and pay out damages to users. By Monday 4 August, 5,000 people had signed up and a day later that number has rocketed to 17,000.

Schrems, a member and spokesman for the Europe vs Facebook group, is a long-term opponent of the social network, and has regularly complained about its privacy policies.

Now, he and the group are making a fresh push against the firm, and are trying to gain as much backing as possible.

Schrems said in a statement: "Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection. Each additional participant also increases the pressure on Facebook."

Damages are set at 500 for each claimant, which Schrems said would soon add up. "We are only claiming a small amount, as our primary objective is to ensure correct data protection. However, if many thousands of people participate we would reach an amount that will have a serious impact on Facebook," he added.

With 17,000 supporters, the claim could add up to 8.5m for Facebook. We asked Facebook to comment on the lawsuit, but it has declined.