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Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was blown wide open when it came to light that the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users had been harvested by the London-based political consultancy firm. More than 300,000 Australians were among the victims impacted by the data breach via a personality test on Facebook known as “This is My Digital Life”. We speak with a Sydney lawyer at front and centre of a possible class action against the social media platform for breach of privacy.

Like 15 million Australians, Robert Johnston is active on Facebook. The partner at law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) in Sydney knows the social media platform serves different purposes to different people. For some, Facebook has superseded all other ways of keeping in touch with friends – why call when you can “like”? Why write a letter rather than ping an emoji via Facebook Messenger?

Johnson is the lead partner of a potential class action being brought against Facebook on behalf of users affected by the alleged privacy breach that saw relevant information used by Cambridge Analytica, a Big Data analytics firm with ties to the election team of US President Donald Trump and Brexit.

Earlier this year, former Cambridge Analytica employee-turned-whistleblower Christopher Wylie went on the record to sensationally reveal how the analytics company had been using personal data against voters to influence political choices and predict voter behaviour.

It emerged that when Facebook learned of Cambridge Analytica’s deep data harvesting via the third-party app in late 2015, little was done by the social media giant to recover the personal data which had been misused. In July, litigation funder IMF Bentham announced it would be backing a representative complaint to the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) against Facebook. Australia was the 10th country hardest hit by the breach, which is believed to have touched the Facebook profiles of about 87 million users globally.

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