Australian government sues Facebook over alleged data breaches

Australian government sues Facebook over alleged data breaches

Australian government sues Facebook over alleged data breaches

Australia's privacy watchdog is pursuing Facebook in the federal court over privacy breaches relating to the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal.

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.

"Facebook's default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy", Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner said Facebook had seriously infringed the privacy of more than 300,000 Australians.

The suit seeks a maximum penalty of AU$1.7m (£870,000) per person, meaning Facebook faces a AU$529bn (£266bn) fine if the court awarded the max civil penalty for each of the 311k+ people affected.

Regulators in the United States accused Cambridge Analytica of engaging "in deceptive practices to harvest personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users for voter profiling and targeting". "We've made major changes to our platforms, in consultation with global 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", the company said.

When the app was downloaded, Kogan had access not only to users' basic information such as city of residence and details about friends, but also data from the profiles of their Facebook friends.

The OAIC says this violates Australian Privacy Principle 6, which involves the use and disclosure of personal information. Facebook did not adequately inform the Affected Australian Individuals of the manner in which their personal information would be disclosed, or that it could be disclosed to an app installed by a friend, but not installed by that individual.

In July 2019, Facebook was fined a record $ 5 billion by the US Federal Trade Commission for its role in the scandal.

A Facebook spokesperson said: "We've made major changes to our platforms in consultation with worldwide 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".

Facebook was fined £500,000 by the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in October 2018 for what it called a "serious breach" of the law. The Federal Court can impose a penalty of up to $1.7 million for each offence.

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