The Australian government is suing Facebook for breach of information to the tune of $529 billion for sharing private information of over 300,000 Australians.
The breach is related to the Cambridge Analytica Data scandal where the political analysis company used data of millions of people for political analysis and information during the 2016 Presidental elections.
The Australian Information Commission has lodged the case against Facebook in the Federal court. The commission alleges that Facebook has committed serious and/or repeated interferences with privacy in contravention of Australian privacy law.
It was found that the information of Australian Facebook users was leaked to the developers of the This Is Your Digital Life app by the Cambridge Analytica Company for a purpose other than what the social media platform had collected it for. This they say is in contravention of the Privacy Act 1988 of Australia. The information was given out from March 2014 to May 2015. Moreover, the information was not collected after the installation of the app by the users, most of their personal information was disclosed via their friends’ use of the app.
The information was used for political analysis and profiling by the company and shared with other users too.
“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,” Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said.
The data collected included date of birth, names, email addresses, locations, friends' list, likes and dislikes, and even access to Facebook messages of people who had granted access.
As is known, almost all this data is given out on the Facebook profile page. Recently, Facebook has come out with privacy settings that allow you to share limited information, but not many utilize the privacy settings effectively.
“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,” says the press statement released by the Australian Information Commission.
The commission also alleges that Facebook did not take the necessary steps to prevent such a thing happening and to protect the privacy of its users from unauthorized breaches.
The Australian Information Commission has various privacy acts in operation. It has a range of regulatory responsibilities and powers under the Privacy Act 1988, Freedom of Information Act 1982 and Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010. Under these, there are Australian Privacy Principles (APP), which apply to agencies covered under it.
APP 6 provides that ‘if an APP entity holds personal information about an individual that was collected for a particular purpose, the entity must not use or disclose the information for another purpose (the secondary purpose), unless the individual has consented to the use or disclosure’ (or another exception applies).
Facebook came to know of Cambridge Analytica’s use of its user profile in 2015 and requested it to destroy the data file and left it at that. Apparently, this did not happen, and the same data that was collected with the help of the Your Digital Life app was used to help voter-profiling for 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.