Facebook Sued By Australian Info Commissioner Over Cambridge Analytica

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal is continuing to reverberate. The Australian Information Commissioner is now suing the social media giant over it.

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. Remember that? Back in 2018, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were both under fire over the data mining practices conducted by Cambridge Analytica. The story drew so much attention from mainstream media that clearly non-technical journalists were calling it a data breach. This in spite of the fact that, by all technical measures, it wasn’t actually a data breach, but rather, data mining. Cambridge Analytica did technically have authorization from Facebook to access the data and the data was public. Still, some journalists insisted in calling it a data breach probably because it was a much scarier term even though the term in this case is inaccurate.

By 2019, rumours began circulating that Facebook could face a “record” fine from American regulators. A couple months later, the rumours became more detailed in that Facebook could face a $5 billion fine. In July, those rumours were confirmed and Facebook was, in fact, hit with a $5 billion fine from the FTC.

The scandal also sparked government investigations both in the UK and the US. High profile executives including Mark Zuckerberg himself got hauled into senate committee’s and questioned. As these investigations went on, Cambridge Analytica had their offices raided by police. This ultimately proved to be too much as Cambridge Analytica declared bankruptcy in the midst of all the fallout. Of course, as critics point out, the company itself didn’t simply disappear. Instead, it became known as Emerdata. The idea, of course, is to change names in an effort to dump all the political baggage the name comes with.

Of course, the fallout wasn’t exclusive to the US. The Brazilian government fined Facebook $1.6 million over the scandal. After Facebook was accused of not following through with promises to change their practices following the scandal, two Canadian privacy commissioners decided to sue Facebook over the scandal having exhausted all their tools as commissioners to hold Facebook accountable.

So, in the span of two years, it almost feels like a lifetime worth of events have unfolded. As we’re finding out, the fallout is still continuing to this very day. The Australian Information Commissioner has filed a lawsuit in an Australian court. This over the all too familiar “This is Your Digital Life” app. From The Guardian:

Australia’s information commissioner is suing Facebook over allegedly breaching the privacy of over 300,000 Australians caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a case lodged in the federal court on Monday, the Australian information commissioner Angelene Falk has alleged Facebook committed serious and repeated interferences with privacy in contravention of Australian privacy law because data collected by Facebook was passed onto the This is Your Digital Life app by Cambridge Analytica for political profiling, which was not what it was collected for.

Data included people’s names, dates of birth, email addresses, city location, friends list, page likes and Facebook messages for those who had granted the app access to the 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,” Falk said.

“Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy.”

Again, it’s data mining that’s at the centre of attention, not a data breach.

One might be wondering why this specific case as opposed to countless others that get much less attention. There are actually a number of reasons for this. For American’s, the big reason why it’s getting so much attention is because Cambridge Analytica played a role in helping get impeached president Donald Trump elected. For the British, Cambridge Analytica played a role in helping to get Brexit through.

From a privacy standpoint, the app used in the midst of all of this was highly questionable. This is because even though the users of the app may have given the company permission to mine their data, but the users friends and friends of friends also had their data potentially mined in the process. Those friends and friends of friends didn’t give their consent which, of course, is going to raise a number of legal red flags. That alone is always going to risk getting the attention of regulators. As we have been finding out over the years, it certainly did get regulators attention.

Of course, the next question that some might have is that if regulators in different countries are still getting around to taking action on Facebook, how many more lawsuits in other countries might be forthcoming? That is something we don’t really know. Still, this latest lawsuit shows that, in spite of the age, this story still has legs. No doubt this is one of the last things Facebook wants to hear given their efforts to paint themselves as a defender of personal privacy in the ongoing security debate.

In addition to this, Facebook also faced a lawsuit from Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine back in 2018.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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