Media Moves

Australia sues Facebook for user data breach

March 9, 2020

Posted by Irina Slav

Australia’s Information Commissioner filed a lawsuit against Facebook alleging the tech giant breached privacy laws.

Byron Kaye reported the news for Reuters:

The Australian privacy regulator filed a lawsuit against Facebook Inc accusing the social media giant of sharing the personal details of more than 300,000 people with political consultant Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge.

In the Federal Court lawsuit, the Australian Information Commissioner accused Facebook of breaching privacy law by disclosing 311,127 users’ information for political profiling via a survey product, ‘This Is Your Digital Life’, on its website.

“The design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control about how their personal information was disclosed,” Information Commissioner Angelene Falk said in a statement.

The suit sought unspecified damages, adding that each breach of privacy law could draw a maximum penalty of A$1.7 million ($1.1 million). The fine would amount to A$529 billion if the court awarded the maximum for each of the 311,127 instances.

Asha Barbaschow wrote for ZDNet that:

Falk alleges that from March 2014 to May 2015, the personal information of Australian Facebook users was disclosed to the This is Your Digital Life app for a purpose other than the purpose for which the information was collected. This is in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 6.

“Most of those users did not install the app themselves, and their personal information was disclosed via their friends’ use of the app,” the statement of claim [PDF] explains.

The statement of claim also alleges that Facebook did not take reasonable steps during this period to protect its users’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure, in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 11.

The information was exposed to the risk of being disclosed to Cambridge Analytica and used for political profiling purposes, and to other third parties, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has said.

ABC News’ Jack Snape reported:

The This is Your Digital Life app was able to collect not only the data of people who downloaded it, but also friends in their Facebook network.

Although around 53 Australians installed it, according to the Commissioner, the data of more than 300,000 Australians was also requested by the app. More than 86 million Facebook users were affected globally.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company “actively engaged” with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) during its investigation.

“We’ve made major changes to our platforms, in consultation with international regulators, to restrict the information available to app developers, implement new governance protocols and build industry-leading controls to help people protect and manage their data,” she said.

“We’re unable to comment further as this is now before the Federal Court.”


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