Watchdog permitted to pursue Facebook for ‘serious or repeated interference with privacy’ and potential $1bn fine

The Federal Court has given the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) approval to take on US-based Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland following the breach of data for over 300,000 Australians.

The tech giant faces a fine of more than $1bn if it is found to be in breach of privacy laws.

Facebook will be pursued by the OAIC thanks to approval from the Federal Court

The claim was lodged by the OAIC last month following the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw the personal data of up to 311,127 Australians exposed for sale and ‘political profiling’ via a Facebook app.

Facebook has already been hit with a record US$5bn fine for the scandal which also exposed the data of up to 87m Americans.

Following the Federal Court approval the OAIC will now serve legal documents to the company. The Court found in its ruling that “the material demonstrates a genuine argument about contravention, sufficient to justify causing the respondents to be subject to the litigation in Australia where the merit of that argument can be judicially determined.”

The OAIC alleges Facebook engaged in ‘serious or repeated interference with the privacy of approximately 311,127 Australian Facebook users’. The commissioner alleges than the app in question, This is Your Digital Life, which was later bought by Cambridge Analytica, used the personal data in a manner which is considered outside ‘user expectations’, namely political profiling.

The finding follows the government decision to allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to force Facebook and Google into a compulsory agreement with media companies to pay for content.


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