By Dorothy Thompson
It would appear that the culture of the monolithic scourge (Facebook) is up its same old tricks. After certain complaints the Australian Privacy Commissioner could impose new regulations and multimillion-dollar penalties on Facebook after launching an investigation into revelations it “improperly shared” the personal information of more than 311,000 Australians.
They were accused of selling highly personal information, including Facebook users’ political views, religious beliefs, friends, and ‘likes,’ was allegedly used to influence voters in the 2016 US election.
Australia’s investigation will look into whether Facebook broke Australian privacy laws and “adequately notified” users that their information had been sold, but privacy experts warned it was a “David and Goliath battle” and could be hard to prove social media users hadn’t accidentally consented to handing over their information.
Acting Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk announced the Facebook investigation two weeks after requesting information about Australians’ involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Ms.Falk said: “I have opened a formal investigation into Facebook, following confirmation from Facebook that the information of over 300,000 Australian users may have been acquired and used without authorisation”. She continued: “The investigation will consider whether Facebook has breached the Privacy Act. Given the global nature of this matter, the OAIC will confer with regulatory authorities internationally.”
The inquiry would look into whether Facebook took “reasonable steps” to ensure users’ information was held securely, Ms Falk said, and whether Australians were “adequately notified about the collection and handling of their personal information”.
If the Commissioner finds Facebook broke privacy law, it could impose new regulations, enforceable undertakings, or seek court-ordered penalties of up to $2.1 million.