The Australian Information Commissioner has launched a historic suit against Facebook, Inc. in Australian federal court.
The suit claims that Facebook’s user data policies exposed the personal information of 311,127 Australian Facebook users to malicious actors, specifically the disgraced data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, who were implicated in the alleged manipulation of the 2016 American election cycle.
“Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy,” the Information Commissioner wrote in a media release on 9 March.
“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.”
Under Australia’s Privacy Act, corporations may be fined up to AU$1.7m for violating the privacy of a single Australian citizen. Based on the number of users affected by Facebook’s alleged misuses of data, the fine for the Information Commissioner’s suit could scale to more than AU$500BN.
Facebook and other big corporations have a long history of violating user privacy, misusing or abusing user data, and using invasive practices to target advertising at users. These abuses are exactly the types of invasive practices that drove the 2018 establishment of the Loki Foundation, Australia’s first privacy tech not-for-profit.
The Australian Information Commissioner’s suit is a rare step in the right direction for a country that has historically taken a strong anti-data privacy stance. As an Australian-based operation, it’s important to us that Australian agencies support the privacy of their people, and we hope to see Australia walk further down the path of privacy in the future.
You can’t put a price on privacy — but a $500 billion fine for Facebook, one of the most invasive and pervasive privacy offenders, would be a good start.