Facebook faces $1bn fine for breach of Australian privacy law over Cambridge Analytica scandal

The Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has lodged Federal Court proceedings against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica data breaches. Should the social media giant be found guilty, it faces a fine of over $1bn.

The data of more than 300,000 Australians was exposed in the breach, which saw Cambridge Analytica gain access to personal data for election campaign use.

Facebook could face a fine of up to $1.7bn for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal

The data access and use was a breach of the Privacy Act 1988, alleges the OAIC, and resulted in the information being used for purposes other than those it was collected for.

Australian information commissioner and privacy commissioner, Angelene Falk, said companies operating in Australia should be expected to abide by Australian privacy laws.

“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,” said Falk.

“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.”

A statement of claim was lodged in the Federal Court this week, alleging that between March 2014 and May 2015 the data of Australian Facebook users of the This Is Your Digital Life app was disclosed, breaching privacy laws.

The app accessed the data of users, but also the contacts of those users, giving it a wider field of access than just the 53 Australians who are reported to have downloaded and used the app. The app was banned from Facebook in 2015 after the breach was made public.

The statement goes on to claim that Facebook did not take reasonable steps to protect the personal information of its users. Should the tech giant be found guilty it will face a penalty of up to $1.7bn.

A Facebook company spokesperson told Mumbrella the business was actively engaged with the investigations.

“We’ve actively engaged with the OAIC over the past two years as part of their investigation. We’ve made major changes to our platforms, in consultation with international regulators, to restrict the information available to app developers, implement new governance protocols and build industry-leading controls to help people protect and manage their data. We’re unable to comment further as this is now before the Federal Court,” said the spokesperson.


In 2019, Facebook was fined US$5bn over the data breach in the US which saw 87m users data exposed.

A review in the UK by the Information Commissioner’s Office found no evidence to prove user data had been transferred to Cambridge Analytica outside of the US.


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