Privacy Commissioner launches investigation into Facebook

Australia’s privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into Facebook after it was revealed that information about more than 300,000 users of the social media network here may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

The investigation will consider whether Facebook has breached the Privacy Act and given the global nature of the matter, the Office of Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) will work with regulatory authorities overseas, acting privacy commissioner Angelene Falk said on Thursday.

Facebook said yesterday that the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica. This was up from the previous estimate of more than 50 million. The social media giant said 311,127 users in Australia may have been affected.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said in conference call that the company had not seen “any meaningful impact” on usage or ad sales since the scandal. He said he accepted blame for the data leak.

Falk said on Thursday that all organisations covered by the Privacy Act have obligations in relation to the personal information they hold.

“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,” Falk said.

“This is timely reminder to all organisations of the value of good privacy practice to Australians. Organisations should regularly and proactively assess their information-handling practices to ensure that they are both compliant with privacy laws and in keeping with community expectations.”

Facebook first acknowledged last month that personal information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

The OAIC said if anyone has concerns about how their personal information has been collected or managed they can first contact Facebook. If they are not satisfied with their response, they can contact OAIC at oaic.gov.au or on 1300 363 992.

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