Australia sues Facebook, alleges breach of user data

Australia sues Facebook, alleges breach of user data

Australia's privacy watchdog announced legal action against Facebook Monday for alleged "systematic failures" exposing more than 300,000 Australians to a data breach by Cambridge Analytica.

"Facebook's default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy", she said.

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).

Facebook's own investigation found that some data from 87 million users in the United States and elsewhere had been compromised by the firm, and claimed the practices violated the social network's terms of service.

'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.

The suit alleges the personal data of Australian Facebook users was disclosed to the This is Your Digital Life app for a goal other than that for which it was collected - thereby breaching Australia's Privacy Act 1988. Although Cambridge Analytica registered a business in Australia shortly after Trump's election, it was not used by any of the country's political parties.

Regulators in the USA accused Cambridge Analytica of engaging "in deceptive practices to harvest personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users for voter profiling and targeting".

It said that most users (311,074 out of 311,127 users) had not installed the app themselves and that their personal information had been "disclosed via their friends' use of the app".

It comes nearly two years after more than 87 million Facebook users globally had had their personal data improperly shared with the political consultancy.

Commissioner Angelene Falk claims 311,127 Australians had their Facebook data sold and used for purposes that include political profiling.

"As a result, the affected Australian individuals' personal information was exposed to the risk of disclosure, monetisation and use for political profiling purposes", court documents say. Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Facebook for comment.

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

OAIC also alleges that Facebook failed to take reasonable steps to protect its users' personal information from unauthorised disclosure.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company had engaged "actively" with the Office of the Information Commissioner over the past two years as part of the investigation.

They said Facebook had "made major changes.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.

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