IMF Bentham is considering funding a privacy class action against Facebook for allowing political research firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest information from the Facebook accounts of over 311,000 Australians.
The litigation funder said Tuesday that it is financing a representative complaint, which will be filed by Johnson Winter & Slattery with the Office of the Information Commissioner on behalf of Australians whose personal data was provided to Cambridge Analytica through their or a friend’s use of the Facebook app “This is My Digital Life”.
IMF said the complaint, which will be brought against Facebook Australia Pty Ltd, Facebook Inc. and Facebook Ireland Ltd. and allege violations of the Australian Privacy Principles, may not yield recoveries for members of the group.
“In light of this, IMF will determine at a later stage if it will fund any class action against the Respondents arising from the alleged breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles,” IMF said.
In April, the Privacy Commissioner opened an investigation into Facebook on the heels of confirmation by the social media giant that the data of over 311,000 Australian users may have been improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica.
Investigators will confer with regulators worldwide and examine whether Facebook breached Australia’s Privacy Act, Acting Commissioner Angelene Falk said.
“All organisations that are covered by the Privacy Act have obligations in relation to the personal information that they hold,” Falk said. “This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is held securely, and ensuring that customers are adequately notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.”
Facebook revealed that political research firm Cambridge Analytica collected information on 87 million users worldwide. Of Facebook’s 10.59 million Australian users, 3.1 per cent were affected.
The company said in a statement it would cooperate with the privacy commissioner’s investigation.
“We are strongly committed to protecting people’s information, and we will be fully responsive to OAIC’s investigation.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said in late March that the regulator would look at whether Facebook was misleading users about how it collects and uses their data.
Sims held talks with former privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim soon after a New York Times report first revealed that the British-based Cambridge collected profile information for millions of Facebook users without their permission.
“We’re looking at what consumers understand about the price that they’re paying to use Facebook; what data Facebook collects; how it is used and whether consumers are misled by that,” ACCC chair Rod Sims first told The Australian.
“We’re interested from a competition point of view about how data is used and the extent to which that impedes competitors, but I think the consumer point is now the more relevant one in terms of what has been revealed over the past week,” he said.
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