Australia sues Facebook for misleading consumers over use of data

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An Australian regulator on Wednesday sued Facebook, accusing the social media giant of collecting user data of Australians without permission.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the Onavo Protect mobile application, which Facebook ended in 2019, told customers it would store their data private. However, ACCC claimed that the tech giant utilized the data for research.

ACCC accused Onavo Protect, which allowed customers to use a virtual private network (VPN) service, of misleading consumers in Australia between February 2016 and October 2017.

“Consumers often use VPN services because they care about their online privacy, and that is what this Facebook product claimed to offer. In fact, Onavo Protect channeled significant volumes of their personal activity data straight back to Facebook,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

However, instead of keeping user activity data confidential, ACCC said Onavo Protect “collected, aggregated and used significant amounts of users’ personal activity data for Facebook’s commercial benefit.”

Sims added that they “believe that the conduct deprived Australian consumers of the opportunity to make an informed choice about the collection and use of their personal activity data by Facebook and Onavo.”