Facebook is accused of disclosing the personal data of more than 300,000 users, which is a breach of Australian privacy laws. The Information Commissioner’s office has been working on an investigation of the issue for two years and is seeking a fine of up to $1.7 million Australian dollars ($1.1 million U.S.).
The issue at the heart of the case is the “This Is Your Digital Life” survey tool which ran on Facebook’s platform. From 2014 to 2015, the personality quiz hoovered up data from unsuspecting users which was inappropriately shared by the Cambridge Analytica firm. The data included names, email addresses, locations, birth dates, friend information, what pages users had liked, and in some cases, Facebook messages.
“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.,” Information Commissioner Angelene Falk said in a statement. “Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy.”
The number of Australians affected by the issue was small compared to the global impact, in which it was estimated that a total of 87 million users were affected. However, the Australian Information Commissioner said that Facebook had failed to provide information on which Australian users were affected.
In response, Facebook said that it has made changes to its platform to improve privacy and allow users more control over their data. “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,” a Facebook representative said in a statement to Reuters. “We’re unable to comment further as this is now before the Federal Court.”
Other countries have taken action against Facebook for its role in the privacy scandal, including a $5 billion settlement reached between the company and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and a 500,000 British pound fine from the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office.
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