In the midst of its battle with Australia’s privacy watchdog in the federal court, Facebook may also face a class action lawsuit lodged on behalf of the Australian’s whose data was hoovered up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Litigation funder IMF Bentham, which is now named Omni Bridgeway, began inviting those Australians who were affected to join a class action on a “no win, no pay” basis in July 2018, in the months after the Cambridge Analytica story broke and when regulatory pressure and media scrutiny of the company was reaching a crescendo.
The class action lawsuit was put on ice while the Information Commissioner completed her investigation into the Australian arm of the breach. But it hasn’t gone away.
A spokesperson for Omni Bridgeway told Which-50 they welcomed the development that the Information Commissioner has formed the view that there is sufficient evidence to commence civil penalty proceedings against Facebook.
“We look forward to advancing the representative complaint within the framework of the Privacy Act,” the spokesperson said.
While regulators including the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already fined Facebook — £500,000 and US$5 billion respectively — for its data sharing practices in the context of the Cambridge Analytica scandal the case is only just reaching the courts in Australia.
This week the Australian Information Commissioner commenced legal proceedings against Facebook in the federal court, alleging it breached two of the Australian Privacy Principles (APP).
The case alleges Australians’ personal information was disclosed for a purpose other than what had been agreed upon and had failed to take reasonable steps to protect those individuals’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure.
The Federal Court can impose a civil penalty of up to $1,700,000 for each serious and/or repeated interference with privacy, in line with the penalty rate applicable in 2014–15.