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Aussies sue Facebook over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook might have thought the headaches of the Cambridge Analytica scandal were firmly in the rear-view mirror, but the Australian Information Commissioner has different ideas.

After 311,127 Australians got caught in the data harvesting saga, the Australian Information Commissioner has finally got to the point where it believes legal action is appropriate. As the This is Your Digital Life app mislead the user as to how the data collected was being used, the Commissioner believes Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are in breach of the Privacy Act, 1988.

“All entities operating in Australia must be transparent and accountable in the way they handle personal information, in accordance with their obligations under Australian privacy law,” said Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk.

“We consider the design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control about how their personal information was disclosed. Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy.

“We claim these actions left the personal data of around 311,127 Australian Facebook users exposed to be sold and used for purposes including political profiling, well outside users’ expectations.”

In disclosing the personal information of 311,127 Australian users to Cambridge Analytica, the Australian Information Commissioner believes Facebook to be violation of Australian Privacy Principle 6. This is due to the fact many of the users did not download the app themselves, therefore did not consent. It is also alleged Facebook protect its users’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure, violating Australian Privacy Principle 11.

While it is not a new revelation, the Australian Information Commissioner is holding Facebook accountable on transparency grounds. The maximum penalty for breach of Australian privacy laws is $1.7 million for each violation.

Although this is unlikely to be welcome news in the Facebook offices, it is of course not the first fine the social media giant has had to deal with in regard to Cambridge Analytica. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fired a £500,000 fine at Facebook, while it took a record $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to resolve a government investigation into its privacy practices.


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