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Facebook Can’t Escape Aussie Privacy Lawsuit

Facebook has lost its bid to dodge legal proceedings brought by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) over the Cambridge Analytica breach.

The legal action was brought by OAIC after a two-year investigation into Facebook disclosing personal data to the This is Your Digital Life app. While only 270,000 Australians downloaded the app from March 2014 to May 2015, it was still able to mine data on their Facebook friends as well – data that was at risk of being exposed to Cambridge Analytica and other third parties.

Facebook had requested to “set aside” the OAIC’s lawsuit on the basis that it was not based in Australia, a request that Federal Court Justice Thomas Thawley denied.

“Justice Thawley was satisfied that the Commissioner had established a prima facie case that Facebook Inc was carrying on business in Australia, and was collecting and holding personal information in Australia at the relevant time.

“While these matters remain to be established at trial, the Court held the matters were sufficiently arguable to justify service outside of Australia and subjecting Facebook Inc to proceedings in Australia,” the OAIC said.

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk welcomed the court’s decision, having filed suit in March alleging the social media company “committed serious and/or repeated interferences with privacy in contravention of Australian privacy law”.

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

“We claim these actions left the personal data of around 311,127 Australian Facebook users exposed to be sold and used for purposes including political profiling, well outside users’ expectations,” she said at the time.

The OAIC also alleges that Facebook did not take “reasonable steps” during the period in question to protect its users’ information from unauthorised disclosure.

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