After UK, Australia Is Next to Potentially Slap Facebook with a Financial Penalty


Earlier this year, the world’s largest social networking platform admitted to enabling third-party companies have access to personal data of over 87 million of its users. Since then, authorities have been scrambling around the world to hit Facebook with the right penalties. After news from the UK that the country's information watchdog is going for the maximum possible financial fine (which turns out to be just £500K), Australia appears to be the next in line.

Over 311,000 users in Australia were potentially affected by Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. Only 53 Australians actually downloaded the Facebook app “this is your digital life” that led to the information leak and the entire Cambridge Analytica scandal. But consent from these 53 users was used to get personal data of over 310,000 Australians in total.

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Facebook could face a fine of nearly $3 billion in Australia

A leading litigation firm in the country filed a complaint with Australia’s Information Commissioner, the country’s privacy regulator, that could result in heavy fines for Facebook. Class action litigation funder IMF Bentham announced seeking financial compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Australians that have had their data shared without their consent.

This mass complaint has been lodged on behalf of all Facebook users affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The lawsuit will seek "compensation for Facebook users arising from Facebook's alleged breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles contained in the Privacy Act 1988," IMF Bentham said in a statement.

"The alleged breaches surround the circumstances in which a third party, Cambridge Analytica, gained unauthorized access to users' profiles and information. The complaint seeks financial recompense for the unauthorized access to, and use of, their personal data."

As in its response to the charges in the UK, Facebook said it is cooperating with the authorities. “We are fully cooperating with the investigation currently underway by the Australian Privacy Commissioner and will review any additional evidence that is made available when the UK Office of the Information Commissioner releases their report,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Local reports suggest that awards for privacy breaches can get affected victims between AU $1,000 and AU $10,000, leading to a potential maximum compensation of $300 million to $3 billion. However, that appears to be a far-fetched figure. In comparison, the UK has imposed a fine of just £500,000 - the maximum it could issue under the pre-GDPR privacy rules.