Facebook hit with class action for alleged Australian privacy law breaches

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An ASX-listed litigation funder and a leading independent Australian firm have filed a mass complaint against Facebook for alleged breaches of Australian privacy law.

IMF Bentham and Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) have lodged the complaint against Facebook with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The complaint, which is related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, alleges breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988.

Australia’s privacy commissioner launched a formal investigation into Facebook in early April.

We are fully co-operating with the investigation currently underway by the Australian Privacy Commissioner and will review any additional evidence that is made available when the UK Office of the Information Commissioner releases their report,” a Facebook spokesperson told Australasian Lawyer via email.

The litigation funder has confirmed to Australasian Lawyer that JWS partner Robert Johnston has taken point on the matter. Johnston is a commercial litigation lawyer known for his work on major claims and class actions, including the $250m RiverCity and $300m MFS PIF class actions.

Robert Johnston

The representative action comes just as the UK’s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said in an update early Wednesday in the UK that Facebook broke British data protection law by failing to protect user data and failing to be transparent about how Cambridge Analytica harvested user data. The social media giant faces up to £500,000 in fines.

In March, the ICO began looking into whether user data had been misused in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. By May, the ICO launched a formal investigation into Facebook.

Facebook revealed in April that the data of 311,127 Australians may have been improperly used. The complaint seeks compensation for those Australian users whose data were compromised by the “This is my Digital Life” app.

It was earlier revealed that the compromised data was shared to UK political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which was tapped by Donald Trump’s 2016 US presidential campaign.


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