Australian privacy regulator launches investigation into Facebook

Facebook will be investigated by the Australian Federal Government’s privacy regulator after the social media service revealed over 300,000 Australians may have had their personal details accessed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

At a press conference this morning, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted the company didn’t do enough to protect users’ data and promised they would further tighten partners’ access to information.

Acting privacy commissioner Angelene Falk has opened investigations into Facebook

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will look at whether Facebook has breached the 1988 Privacy Act. Should the regulator find Facebook did break the law, the social media giant could face fines of up to $2.1 million.

Since the Privacy Act was passed in 1988, prosecutions have been few with Telstra being a notable exception in 2014 after it exposed over 15,000 customer details to the internet.

However, the commissioner’s office has entered into a number of enforceable undertakings with businesses and government agencies which have fallen foul of the regulations.

In the OAIC’s public statement released this afternoon, acting privacy commissioner Angeline Falk flagged the agency would work with her international counterparts as part of the investigation.

Statement from the acting Australian Information Commissioner and acting Privacy Commissioner Ms Angelene Falk

Today I have opened a formal investigation into Facebook, following confirmation from Facebook that the information of over 300,000 Australian users may have been acquired and used without authorisation.

The investigation will consider whether Facebook has breached the Privacy Act 1988(Privacy Act). Given the global nature of this matter, the OAIC will confer with regulatory authorities internationally.

All organisations that are covered by the Privacy Act have obligations in relation to the personal information that they hold. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is held securely, and ensuring that customers are adequately notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.

This is a timely reminder to all organisations of the value of good privacy practice to Australians. Organisations should regularly and proactively assess their information-handling practices to ensure that they are both compliant with privacy laws and in keeping with community expectations.

If anyone has concerns about how their personal information has been collected or managed they can, in the first instance, contact Facebook directly and if not satisfied with their response they can contact the OAIC at or on 1300 363 992.


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