Facebook facing Australian law suit over Cambridge Analytica-linked data breach

David Murphy

Australia’s information watchdog is suing Facebook for more than 300,000 alleged privacy breaches involving the This is Your Digital Life app used by Cambridge Analytica for political profiling, The Guardian reports.

The case was lodged in the federal court on Monday. In it, the Australian information commissioner, Angelene Falk, accuses Facebook of committing serious and repeated interferences with privacy in contravention of Australian privacy law because data collected by Facebook was passed onto the This is Your Digital Life app by Cambridge Analytica for political profiling, which was not the reason for which it had been collected.

The data involved included names, dates of birth, email addresses, city location, friends list, page likes and Facebook messages for those who had granted the app access to the messages.

At the time, Facebook said 311,127 Australians had data shared with the app between March 2014 and May 2015, accounting for 0.4 per cent of users affected by the breach. According to the court documents, however, only 53 people in Australia installed the app.

The Office of the Australian Commissioner (OAIC) said in its court filing that the design of Facebook’s privacy settings meant that users were unable to consent or control over how their data was disclosed, and to date, Facebook has not been able to tell the OAIC which Australian users were affected.
Each contravention carries a maximum penalty of $1.7m (£850,000). The OAIC is alleging multiple breaches but the court papers do not indicate whether penalties would be sought for all 311,127 users affected. Facebook was fined £500,000 for the breach in the UK, and $5bn (£3.8bn) in the US.