Two years ago, after being accused of sharing personal information regarding 87 million users by infringing their privacy with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, Facebook found itself in deep waters with various governments and privacy regulators. This, eventually, cost the company whopping $5 billion then. But it appears that the trouble for Facebook is far from over yet.
Once again, it seems that the past has caught up with the social media giant. It has recently come to light that the Australian government is reportedly suing the social media giant Facebook for allegedly infringing the privacy laws of their country. The damages that have been requested for could easily reach a whopping $529 billion. To put that into perspective, one can compare it to Facebook’s current market cap which currently values the company worth $501.47 billion.
On Monday, a suit was filed to the Australian Federal Court which mentioned that between March 2014 and May 2015, the privacy of over 311,127 Australian citizens was violated by Facebook. Information related to their personal details of citizens were reportedly disclosed to the ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ app after which the data was further sold for political profiling by the developers of the app to the infamous organization Cambridge Analytica.
It has been alleged by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner that the social media behemoth has “failed to take reasonable steps to protect those individuals’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure” and further disclosed the collected information for a different purpose altogether. Both these stand in stark violation of Australia’s Privacy Act 1988.
In a press release, Angelene Falk, Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner expressed that he believes that the Facebook platform is designed in a way in which the users can’t possibly choose and control how the disclosure of their personal information.
He further added that it is the default in-built settings of the social media platform that enable and facilitates the disclosure of personal and sensitive information by disabling privacy.
It was also alleged by the filed suit that the app, named “This Is Your Digital Life”, wasn’t even installed on the devices of the majority of the affected Australian citizens. However, they still fell prey to this data theft because their Facebook friends had downloaded the app therefore not giving them a choice or opportunity to opt-out of it. It has been claimed that only 53 people in the whole of Australia had downloaded the app by the OAIC.
A maximum penalty of $1.7 million is being carried by each alleged violation which is a pretty big chunk of cash it itself. However, when that amount is multiplied by the 311,127 cases that have been alleged by the OAIC, it amounts to the humongous sum of $529 billion. Compared to that, the total revenue of the Australian government is estimated to be $513.7 billion in 2019-20.
However, all the cases against Facebook could be potentially be consolidated into a single suit which would then reduce the potential damages back to $1.7 according to the OAIC as mentioned by them to the Australian Financial Review.
Facebook’s Struggle With Outrunning Its Past
This current incident clearly shows that Facebook is still unable to outrun its very questionable past related to privacy. The Cambridge Analytica data scandal may have been two years ago now, but its effects still linger on.
Facebook already had to settle a whopping $5 billion fine to the U.S government in 2019 and £500,000 fine to the U.K. government in 2018 for their huge lapses privacy. However, those amounts, compared to that of the requested damages bu the Australian government is paltry at best considering the conversion rate.
A Facebook spokesperson while commenting on the new charges by the Australia Government told TechCrunch that over the past two years, as part of their investigation, Facebook has been actively engaged with the OAIC. However, as this is now before the Federal Court, they won’t be able to comment further.