Stemming from 2014 and 2015, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is still damaging Facebook; even all these years later. Australia is suing Facebook for the lofty amount of $529 billion for violating the country’s privacy laws. The massive requested damages are more than the government rakes in from taxes per year and almost half of its annual GDP.
The suit was filed in the Australian Federal Court this week and claims that Facebook violated the privacy of 311,127 Australian citizens by disclosing their personal information. It was a simple social media app linked to Facebook, but this data was then shared with Cambridge Analytica, which then used it for political profiling.
According to the claim the company violated Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988, saying that Facebook “failed to take reasonable steps to protect those individuals’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure and said information was disclosed for a purpose other than that for which it had been collected.” Both claims are major violations of the Privacy Act.
In a press release Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk made the statement: “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.”
The app in question here on the Facebook platform is called This is Your Digital Life. The suit states that only 53 people in Australia downloaded and used the app. But Facebook’s app ecosystem allowed it to collect data from a string of connections from those 53 initial users, including the connections of connections, then their connections, and so on. This is how 311,127 people’s data was illegally shared.
In the Australian law each case carries a maximum penalty of $1.7 million, and some simple maths then brings us to the total $529 billion claim. Even if the Australian government is successful with such a claim, the final penalty is sure to be much lower than the claimed amount.
We will be sure to follow the story closely, as Facebook still hasn’t paid a $5 billion fine it agreed to as a result of the same scandal in the US.