Australia’s privacy regulator filed a lawsuit against Facebook accusing the social media giant of sharing the personal details of more than 300,000 people with political consultant Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge.
In the Federal Court lawsuit, the Australian Information Commissioner accused Facebook of breaching privacy law by disclosing 311,127 users’ information for political profiling via a survey product, “This Is Your Digital Life,” on its website.
“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.
“We’ve actively engaged with the OAIC over the past two years as part of their investigation,” a Facebook spokesperson said, pointing to several changes the platform has made in consultation with international regulators but declining to comment specifically on the currently pending litigation.
The suit sought unspecified damages, adding that each breach of privacy law could draw a maximum penalty of 1.7 million Australian dollars ($1.1 million USD). The fine would amount to 529 billion Australian dollars, or about $343 billion USD, if the court awarded the maximum for each of the 311,127 instances.
Last July, Facebook was fined USD 5 billion by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after a probe triggered by the same user personality quiz from 2014 to 2015. The FTC’s fine, while a record amount for the agency, was just a fraction of the more than USD 70 billion Facebook earned in revenue last year, according to its latest earnings report. However, the potential penalty Facebook is facing in Australia is about five times its annual revenue.