After investigating the matter carefully we have formed the view at this stage that consumers would not benefit from the commencement of any proceedings against Facebook (or Cambridge Analytica) in respect of this matter. We will continue to monitor the position and if the situation changes we will notify via our website.
Between 2013 and 2015, a political data firm known as Cambridge Analytica created a personality quiz app called “This is your Digital Life”. The app was posted to Facebook and obtained a user’s profile data, such as likes and interests.
Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app, however, using a loophole in Facebook’s user settings, the app also harvested data from all of the people within the friends network of the users’. This meant that Cambridge Analytica ultimately ended up with the profile data for approximately 50 million Facebook users.
Since the story broke in the New York Times and the Guardian in mid-March 2018, Facebook has repeatedly assured its users that no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked. Facebook has also recently released a video apologising for not preventing Cambridge Analytica from harvesting the data and not alerting its users of the issue when it occurred.
What are the issues for Australian consumers?
A violation of privacy such as this raises a number of issues for a consumer, most notably the risk of identity theft that can arise from a third party holding your personal, private and sensitive information.
There are multiple markets for an individual’s private information, including the Dark Web (where criminal entities can use the data as ransom against the individual – such as the Ashley Madison data breach) or, as seen in this instance, for marketing purposes.
Why Facebook (or another entity) may be liable?
Entities which hold personal data on behalf of an individual generally have an obligation to take steps to keep that information secure and not disseminate it without the user’s consent. Shine Lawyers investigated whether Facebook breached any contractual agreement with its users, stored the data of its users negligently or breached any statutory duty which may apply to users of Facebook in Australia.