Facebook Sued for Using VPN to Spy on Users by Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Facebook is being sued by Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over how the corporate allegedly used its Onavo VPN to spy on users for commercial purposes during 2016 and 2017.

The social media giant first acquired the VPN service Onavo back in 2013 for close to $200m. Facebook then released an app called Onavo Venture which was subsequently banned from Apple’s App Retailer for gathering and reporting usage data.

In its case, the ACCC is accusing the corporate of false, deceptive or misleading conduct towards hundreds of Australian shoppers who believed the non-public knowledge they despatched by way of its Onavo Protect app can be stored personal and not used for every other goal.

ACCC chair Rod Sims offered additional perception on how Fb used the app for its own commercial achieve in a statement, saying:

“By Onavo Protect, Facebook was gathering and utilizing the very detailed and invaluable private exercise knowledge of hundreds of Australian shoppers for its personal industrial functions, which we consider is fully opposite to the promise of safety, secrecy and privateness that was central to Fb’s promotion of this app. Consumers often use VPN providers as a result of they care about their on-line privateness, and that is what this Facebook product claimed to supply. In actual fact, Onavo Defend channeled vital volumes of their personal exercise knowledge straight again to Fb.”

Spying on users

In keeping with the ACCC, Fb misled Australian shoppers by misrepresenting the features of its free-to-download Onavo Defend app between February 1 2016, and October 2017. The regulator is presently looking for declarations and pecuniary penalties by way of its case.

Facebook spokesperson defined that the corporate was clear about the info collected when shoppers downloaded Onavo Defend, saying:

“When individuals downloaded Onavo Protect, we had been at all times clear concerning the info we acquire and the way it is used. We’ve cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter up to now. We’ll evaluation the current filing by the ACCC and can continue to defend our position in response to this current filing.”

Facebook shuttered its Onavo Protect app last year following backlash concerning the way it had used the VPN app to spy on users. Based on inner firm paperwork made public by the UK parliament in 2018, the social media big used Onavo charts to achieve insights into which third-party apps customers had been downloading to their units.

WhatsApp is a terrific example of this as data from Onavo showed that the messaging service was an aggressive menace to Fb’s Messenger app. Shortly after learning this though, Facebook spent $19bn to acquire WhatsApp in 2014.

We’ll have to attend and see whether or not the ACCC’s lawsuit is successful however this possible is not the final time that Onavo Defend can be used against Fb in a legal setting.