Facebook case ‘divorced from reality’ in Cambridge Analytica lawsuit
“It proves too much because it has the consequence that no computer activity in one jurisdiction can ever amount to more than an effect on computers located in another.
“The submission results in no internet business based in one jurisdiction ever being able to do business in another.”
The Information Commissioner initiated proceedings in 2020, one of many cases against Facebook/Meta around the world. He had to get permission to sue Facebook because the social media giant is incorporated and based in the United States.
Judge Perram noted that only 53 people in Australia had installed the app, but it could access the data of 311,127 people who were “Facebook friends”.
It was later used by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump’s successful bid for the US presidency.
Judge Perram said there was “a clear distinction between a foreign website which provides data to an Australian computer when requested, and an application which installs executable code on that computer”.
“Although Facebook Inc’s description of what is happening is not wrong, it is presented at such a high level of generality that it is, in my humble opinion, useless as an analytical tool.
“One could also say that Facebook Inc had just turned on and off a lot of tiny switches – a true claim since all computers operate solely by toggling binary digits on and off – but the claim, while true, is not useful for capturing anything about the activities in which Facebook Inc is actually engaged.
‘The history of art’
“By parity of reasoning, we learn little about the history of art by observing that the work of Rembrandt The night watch consists of a few pigments on canvas in a wooden frame.
Chief Justice James Allsop noted that Facebook had complained “of an unprecedented expansion of the concept of ‘doing business’ in such a way that it would result in ‘the world…doing business in the world’.”
“With respect, one should be wary of exaggeration…the implications for other online businesses in other areas of law that use the concept of ‘doing business’ are far from clear.”
Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk welcomed the ruling, which upheld an earlier decision by Judge Angus Thawley, and said she “looks forward to hearing questions from fund”.
“Judge Thawley was satisfied that the Commissioner had established a prima facie case that Facebook Inc was carrying on business in Australia and collecting and holding personal information in Australia at the relevant time.”