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Interlocutory Federal Court of Australia decision: Australian Information Commission v Facebook Inc [2020] FCA 531 (22 April 2020)

The Australian Privacy Commissioner has commenced a Federal Court proceeding against Facebook alleging contravention of section 13G of the Privacy Act by an act or a practice that was “a serious or repeated interference” with the privacy of over 310,000 Australian Facebook users.  

This decision is principally about obtaining the Court’s consent to serve the proceeding’s initiating documents on entities outside Australia.  It is in that context that the Commissioner’s allegations in the proceeding have been revealed. There have not been any substantive findings yet.

The alleged contravention of section 13G is underpinned by alleged breaches of Australian Privacy Principle 6.1, which prohibits the use or disclosure of an individual’s personal information collected for a particular purpose being used for another purpose without consent, and Australian Privacy Principle 11.1, which, in summary, requires an entity holding personal information to protect it from misuse, loss or unauthorised use.  The conduct relates to an app within Facebook that, among other things, collected data about Facebook users’ friends who had not themselves used the app, which data was in turn sold to Cambridge Analytica. 

The scale of the alleged breach is large.  This is a case to watch. 

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