back to article Australian privacy watchdog sues Facebook for *checks notes* up to £266bn

Australia's privacy watchdog is suing Facebook for exposing the personal data of more than 300,000 Australians as part of the Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal. In a case lodged (PDF) with the Federal Court today, the Australian Information Commissioner, Angelene Falk, accused Facebook of exposing the data of 311,127 …

  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Is this the new tax grab?

    I've always felt the US has used foreign firms in the US as an alternative tax source by fining them for what seems to be normal US business practice. Are the Aussies cottoning on the this or is it just some Murdochian scheme?

    1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

      Re: Is this the new tax grab?

      This is hardly a case of fining someone for what seems a normal business practice, when the whole world has taken action against Facebook for this egregious breach of data privacy.

      What's different here is that Australia are going for the throat here, potentially fining them enough to cause some serious hurt, rather than the 30 minutes or so profit the UK managed to snag

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Is this the new tax grab?

        The 30 minutes of profit that the UK got was due to the limitations of the law at the time which obviously did not foresee such an event and was drafted at a time when privacy wasn't as mainstream an issue as social media has made it,

        1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

          Re: Is this the new tax grab?

          I realise that's the case, it's a damn shame GDPR couldn't be applied to activity between the law passing and it coming into effect, because then we could have snagged 4% of Facebook's global turnover...

          1. Pseu Donyme

            re inadequate fine

            I wonder if a similar arrangement could have been (or could still be) used with the old EU data protection regime: while the maximum fine might have been £500 000 or similar amount, insignificant to the likes of Facebook, could this have been applied for every individual violation i.e. user whose rights were violated? With the likes of Facebook these are in the millions and even 1 000 000 x 500 000 = 500 bn, which should get their attention.

          2. Mike Richards

            Re: Is this the new tax grab?

            Here's one for GDPR experts...

            People without Facebook accounts are still tracked by Facebook doohickies scattered over the Internet like dog turds over a pavement. Facebook can use these to build individual profiles of individuals. These people have not granted Facebook permission to store personal information and have no recourse to demand the data is deleted - since they do not have Facebook accounts. So is Facebook breaching GDPR by continuing to acquire this information?

            1. Roj Blake

              Re: Is this the new tax grab?

              Yes they are, but proving it might prove difficult.

  2. macjules Silver badge
    Devil

    Couldn't happen to a nicer company

    Never mind Mr Zuckerberg, I'll sling you ¢1. Oh wait. No I won't.

  3. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Bollox

    "...and build industry-leading controls to help people protect and manage their data."

    It's a shame that "industry-leading" is just a fluffy-sounding name for "we're actually a completely amoral company headed by a psychopath who wouldn't think twice about selling his/her kids to the highest bidder. So you're privacy concerns have got no fucking chance mate!"

    1. tcmonkey

      Re: Bollox

      This.

      "Industry leading" it may be, but that doesn't mean they're leading them in a good direction.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Bollox

      It's a shame that "industry-leading" is just a fluffy-sounding name for "we're actually a completely amoral company headed by a psychopath who wouldn't think twice about selling his/her kids to the highest bidder. So you're privacy concerns have got no fucking chance mate!"

      We are the industry leaders in amorality, sociopathic executives and not giving a fuck about you, our valuable products.

      1. hoola Bronze badge

        Re: Bollox

        When the industry is your own business it is very easy to be "Industry Leading". It is just fud to make people believe that Facebook are suddenly being all concerned about privacy. The do not give a stuff and will continue to do this safe in the knowledge that saying sorry and paying the fines is still good value for money. If this action does come off then it may actually be the first time the business model fails.

  4. Saruman the White

    That could hurt

    Up to now FB has been subjected to likely more than a few mild hand raps (financially speaking), now all of a sudden it is facing a public flogging. £266 billion is going to hurt them if it actually gets through the courts; even if the courts disallow 3/4 of the fine, what is left is still going to sting a hell of a lot. If the ICO joins in with its 4% global turnover fines, then FB is going to have to change its ways, or it will go under from the weight of fines.

    1. Oliver Mayes

      Re: That could hurt

      There isn't a hope in hell of this working, Facebook would rather pay £2 billion to its army of lawyers than admit it's at fault.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: That could hurt

        It probably won't work, but at least somebody has the balls to propose a fine that might hurt rather than the "polite request for fifty seconds of advertising profit" that they've been getting elsewhere.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: That could hurt

          And when it fails FB will ensure the politicians involved are swiftly (at the next election) dealt with?

        2. <script>alert('the register');</script>

          Re: That could hurt

          That's all it is, a proposition though. The reality is it'll end up being 2/3 billion settled out of court and just another CODB.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: That could hurt

        "Facebook would rather pay £2 billion to its army of lawyers than admit it's at fault"

        It makes no difference whether it admits it or not if the the court decides it was at fault. I'd have thought there facts are fairly well documented by now and this appears to be a civil suit so it would be decided on balance of probabilities (assuming Oz law works like UK). I'd expect the main argument to be about damages.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: That could hurt

      If the ICO joins in with its 4% global turnover fines

      Cambridge Analytica predates GDPR so a fine would be trivial.

      1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

        Re: That could hurt

        The fine for those activities has already happened, £500k, the maximum the ICO could impose

    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: That could hurt

      I wish the court decided to make Mr. Z personally liable for the whole amount. I bet FB policies would change in a Hummingbird's heartbeat if the fine were made in such a way that declaring bankruptcy couldn't absolve the debt.

      "I'll be lenient in my punishment Mr. Zuckerberg. You can either pay a non-absolveable shitload of money in penalty, or you can be stripped naked, slathered in honey, rolled in catnip & tuna juice, then left in a sealed room full of starving feral cats. Which shall it be? Oh who the fuck am I kidding? Let's do BOTH! BAILIFF!"

      *Cough*

      I'm not Evil, I'm Creatively Vindictive.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: That could hurt

        then left in a sealed room full of starving feral cats

        You can't do something that horrible to cats! As their (cough) appointed mouthpiece^W representative^W chew-toy I'm here to demand that all of their many and quite clearly required and purely reasonable whims^W wants are met.

        And that doesn't involve being fed something that would make even a starving vulture turn up its beak.

        Far better idea - how about a roomful of starving feral lawyers? There might need to be an element of capture involved and lengthy non-feeding but hey, you can't make an omlette without breaking some lawyers eh?

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          Re: That could hurt

          I hang my head in shame for having forgotten that MyFurryOverlords might not be willing to stomach something as vile as Zuck, even if rolled in catnip, honey, & tuna juice.

          I shall take myself out back & flog myself mercilously in pennance in the hopes MFO forgive me.

          I like your idea better -- feral & starving lawyers would do a far better job of chewing him up & spitting out the glop than a nuclear powered military grade metal shredder.

          I'll begin opening a few million cans of prime tuna for MFO to appease their sensabilities, just after I find my Flogger-O-Death-+20 whereever it landed after my previous Castle Anthrax Naughty Nun get together...

          1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

            Re: That could hurt

            Feline better now?

            1. Mr Dogshit

              Re: That could hurt

              Cat puns freak meowt.

            2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

              Re: That could hurt

              Purrrrrfectly, thank you. =-)P

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    What to do with all the money

    This is Australia , so if they actually manage to recover any of that money what would then be done with it..

    1 : Fund the liberals in order to advance them in their Politically Correct Nightmare.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-08/australia-is-too-politically-correct-says-abc-chair-ita-buttrose/11581878

    2 : Construct a direct link between the Govt and the Police force in order to share data directly.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/27/australian-government-secretly-releasing-sensitive-medical-records-to-police

    3: Provides new funds so that the ministers can stop be bothered by nuissance fires whilst on holiday.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/22/asia/australia-fire-prime-minister-criticism-apology/index.html

    Seriously though, if they do manage to get some of El Zuck dollars I hope that it will actually go to some good use and not disappear into some ministers personal agenda.

    1. jonathan keith Silver badge

      Re: What to do with all the money

      If 'Straya's too politically correct then many of the rest of us have long since blown past some sort of 'woke' event horizon.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: What to do with all the money

      Isn't it enough money to give every spider in Australia a personal speedbooat - and directions to South Africa / South America / Japan / country of choice?

      1. eldakka Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: What to do with all the money

        Firstly, there isn't enough money in the world to pay off all the spiders.

        Secondly, if we could do that, without the spiders, the snakes would fill the vacuum and take over.

        Thirdly, the sea snakes would migrate to the land to help the land snakes, thus allowing box jellyfish to spread around all the costs, rather than just the northern quarter.

        Fourthly, the box jellyfish swarming all the coasts would chase the white pointers away, which would allow the salt-water crocs (whose hide is too thick for the stingers) to multiply, making the coastal waterways man-traps.

        Fifthly, this'd also free the drop-bears and bunyips, and nobody would be safe if they were given free rein.

        And finally, most horrifically of all, if the bunyips and drop-bears were allowed to rampage, the Aussie politicians would flee to the rest of the world (leaving everyone else behind to distract the bunyips long enough for them to escape). You think having no immunity to COVID-19 is bad? Wait until you get exposed to Aussie politicians. Cats and dogs living together would be the least of it.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What to do with all the money

      According to TFA they're suing on behalf of their affected citizens. Logic says it should go to those. Likelihood is that the govt. will have substantial costs to take out of it. Very substantial costs.

  6. Tromos

    Unlikely that a fine of that magnitude would actually be paid. FB would probably just shut down operations in Australia instead. But that's a result too.

    Also sends a message to the other data rapists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Unlikely that a fine of that magnitude would actually be paid. FB would probably just shut down operations in Australia instead. But that's a result too."

      Yep. I'm not really siding with FB, but such an amount is ridiculous. In the face of all milions users who saw their data to Cabridge, it would imply fines the size of the galaxy GDP, if known ...

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        FAIL

        So you're objecting to the fact that the Australian ICO places a high value on the privacy of Australian citizens?

        Or are you just jealous that your country's authorities have such a low valuation of your privacy?

      2. GeekyDee

        Shouldn't do the crime if'n ya can't afford the fine...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Thing is, if the fine's big enough it becomes worth it for these kinds of firms to lawyer their way out of it: at the extreme start getting into the country's politics to get the laws changed.

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            The thing is, the only lawyering way out of it would be to clarify the exact number of Australian Citizens affected, and influence the payout amount. 300k is an estimate. So they might be able to get this number reduced (perhaps significantly).

            But the rest of it? Most of the rest is indisputable fact. Facebook, while disclaiming liability, has admitted to most of the facts around Cambridge Analytica, Dr. Kogan, etc. in the various commissions it's been dragged in front of. Not to mention there are multiple fines that have already been levied by the ICO, FCC/FTC (I forget which one had), and so on.

            The evidence is out there and incontrovertible.

            Will they have to pay £266b? Of course not. It's likely to be something like $1k per person, which is still $3b (assuming their lawyering doesn't get this number of affected people down), or $5k per, or $100 per.

            We can all hope it'll be big, say in the (low) 10's of billions, but that's the best we could hope for, and even that is far-fetched, more likely at the $1k per end.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              NOTHING is incontrovertible. There's the Flat Earth Society, after all, as well as that turn of phrase, "I reject your reality and substitute my own..."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    up to £266bn

    and why not, you start you bid high, and then negotiate - down. A bit ;)

    1. GeekyDee

      Re: up to £266bn

      Well, it does seem a bit excessive; should limit it to 20% of global net worth, just don't let them pay with Libra's

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The court will wimp out

    The banks were caught with money laundering charges and could have been fined over $1 Trillion, but did a deal and paid just $750 Million. Very painful but not devastating, then it was business as usual (The bank lost its CEO and Chairman as well).

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: The court will wimp out

      That's because wiping out banks can have serious effects to the economy.

      Wiping out Facebook, in the other hand...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The court will wimp out

        It could still have a serious effect. But in a good way.

    2. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: The court will wimp out

      Not quite. A few long lunches with the execs of the organisations that fund the bodies that fund most political parties and most of it will go away. Oz seems to have cheap pollies. A sinecure or two, a short holiday of a month or two as a "fact" finding mission and all s good. It would not surprise me that Oz taxpayers wind up paying costs to Zucks lawyers because a collection of woke judges finds something in the Constitution about F*Bitch being not covered by Oz law. I wish I was just being cynical

    3. Roj Blake

      Re: The court will wimp out

      I'm sure that once Zuckerberg privately lets slip to the judge that he has his full browsing history this will go away.

  9. NanoMeter

    In Australia...

    if anyone is supposed to breach privacy, it should be the government..

  10. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    That's Australia - Facebook needs to F.O.C.U.S.

    Jenny Talia documented this attitude on youtube - F.O.C.U.S.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AU$529bn

    OR

    Hand over King Zuck for 20 years porridge.

  12. chivo243 Silver badge

    Great idea

    I'll wait to see how it's put into practice...

  13. ExampleOne

    This “potential” fine looks suspiciously like a “settle for a reasonable fine” opening gambit.

    Anyone want to bet it will be more like a 266 million settlement?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      $100, an Esky full of tinnies and the promise of building a Koala hospital specialising in chlamydia and burns?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zuck it

    Regulator: "We're going to fine you one million dollars...."

    Zuck: "One million dollars?" (Pinky to mouth in Dr Evil impression) "Here, let me see if I've got that down the side of the couch".

    Regulator: "...for every one of those 300,000 people."

    Zuck: "I... see." (Smirk slowly fades from Zuck's robotic face)

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Zuck it

      The result of this is likely to be some seriously and newly rich lawyers and a total audit od Oz's privacy laws.

      Meanwhile the ginger nut will not be appearing in court and FBOz will be making loads of puerile, childish statements about how it's not their fault.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only $266B?

    Double it and double it again. Then it won't be enough to correct the damage that Facebook has done to the world.

    Drive them out of business. In a few years, the world with thank you for it.

    YMMV naturally.

  16. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Yaaay!

    Go Oztralia, go, go, go!

    Kickiminabollix

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That could even find free internet for all in Australia.

  18. Michael Hoffmann
    Meh

    Sadly...

    ... the way things are going right now, for that amount of moolah, Zuck may just decide to buy the whole country instead.

  19. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Sounds about right

    and they will have more than that stashed away.

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