Furore: The frontpage of the website
The Liberal Party has been accused of conducting a "massive data harvesting operation" which collects highly personal information about people and their friends using Facebook.
A website created by the Liberal Party, thechoice.liberal.org.au, asks users to log-in with their Facebook account to "see Australia's two possible futures".
Once users proceed to see the "futures", they are then told that the Liberal Party would like to access (with permission) their Facebook profile, which includes information such as the user's name, profile picture, age range, gender, language, email address and location. They are also told the Liberal Party will gain access to a list of the user's friends, their friends' likes and their friends' location.
The user's friends are not asked whether this information should be divulged to the Liberal Party.
The website makes use of a Facebook application which has access to the same information other Facebook app developers can gain access to and is similar to what US President Obama's team did when they signed up more than 1 million Obama supporters to their app.
The Obama team's app gave the team permission to look at the supporter's friend lists.
If users agree to let the Liberal Party access the information, two separate video clips of what the future would be like in the Liberal's eyes under either Labor or the Liberals is shown.
"This is a massive data harvesting operation," said David Vaile, executive director of UNSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre and vice-chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation.
"It's luring you to give up you and your friends' information.
"They are harvesting not only your own Facebook likes, which I think is quite dangerous, but the Facebook likes of your friends and they're not asking for your friends' permission."
He said the collection of data was a "phishing" exercise designed to "trick" users before they think.
The Coalition's campaign headquarters said the site only collected data with permission.
"There is no doubt that we complied with all of Facebook's terms and conditions at all times," it said. "All users must give their permission for the Liberal Party to access their data. If they don't want to provide the data, they have the choice to not proceed with using the app."
But it refused to address questions posed on whether a user's friends consented to their name, location and "likes" being accessed by the Liberal Party.
"Refer [to] previous response, we have complied with all terms and conditions," it said.
Despite this, Mr Vaile compared the website to a virus or malware.
"It's using the same techniques as malware to harvest not only your information but information about your friends. If people want to provide their own personal information to a political party there's nothing wrong with that but they should be asked for consent before they give it.
"Why would your friends want the Liberal Party to know what their Facebook 'likes' were?
"Collecting this data is completely unnecessary for showing you the 'two possible futures'."
Mr Vaile also questioned what was being done with the data and how it was being stored.
He recommended people not use the site.
"I would put it on your spam and phishing and malware list," he said.
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