Australia’s consumer guardian accuses Facebook over deceptive VPN app

Rob Githinji  - Tech Expert
Last updated: November 17, 2023
Australia Facebook VPN case
  • Australia's ACCC consumer watchdog blames Facebook for faking the users over its VPN.
  • ACCC claims that Facebook’s owned VPN app, Onavo Protect misled users and collected their personal information.
  • Currently, the social giant is only facing a lawsuit and will be fined if found guilty.

It seems the privacy regulators are keeping tech titans under their radar. Facebook is often criticized for tracking user’s data without their consent. Lately, the company came across a legal action filed against it by the U.S. federal regulators. Considerably the biggest in its history.

As PrivacySavvy reported, the social giant ended-up resting in hot water a couple of days ago too. Privacy advocates targeted the tech giant after it announced to move U.K. users from EU’s jurisdiction to US terms.

And now, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has sued Facebook for misleading users through its Onavo Protect VPN service. ACCC accuses Zuckerberg’s social network of gathering private data of users by faking them.

Reportedly, ACCC claims that Facebook has misguided users through its VPN app Onavo Protect, which was shut down in 2019. As per the ACCC’s claim, Facebook went against the privacy rules it promised to offer in the VPN service. Users thought their data was being kept private, but it wasn’t.

This has not happened for the first time; Facebook has been accused of such acts several times already. It has become the new normal for the company to handle such cases.

If Facebook is found guilty of misleading users, the company can face serious consequences—a hefty fine.

What’s Facebook’s take on this accusation?

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, ACCC sued Facebook and two of its subsidiaries, Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc. The Australian regulator has filed the case at Australia’s Federal Court. As per the claims, Facebook deceived its users between February 2016 and October 2017.

Onavo Protect was a VPN service provided by Facebook to smartphone users for free before it got taken down in 2019.

Instead of securing the user’s data as highlighted in the advertisement, Onavo Protect gathered valuable data and used it for its commercial interest.

Facebook didn’t respond immediately to ACCC’s claims. However, the company later contacted ACCC. Zuckerberg’s team is reviewing the court filing and will respond accordingly.

Facebook on the hit list of privacy advocates and watchdogs

Facebook has been under a lot of pressure in recent times. The lawsuit that US regulators filed against the social giant is reported to be the most significant legal action the American government has taken against the firm.

Facebook is being pushed to surrender Instagram and WhatsApp. The motive of this lawsuit is to break the dominance of the company.

The ACCC legal action is one of its type, followed by the U.S. lawsuit. Australia’s consumer regulator has already drafted a law that threatens tech giants’ (likes of Facebook and Google) autonomy.

The law indicates that these firms need to pay media outlets whenever they host news content on their platform. If they don’t, they can face millions of dollars in fine.

Besides, the Information Commission of Australia also filed a case against FB for breaching over 300K+ users’ data. The lawsuit was filed in March 2020 against the company for this illegal act.

Facebook has already paid billions in fines this year alone. It seems a difficult time waits ahead for the social media king as multiple court hearings await its representatives.

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About the Author

Rob Githinji

Rob Githinji

Tech Expert

Robert is a cybersecurity, privacy, and blockchain pundit with vast experience in diverse editorial positions at major news outlets. Apart from writing, Rob is kool kat, an amateur footballer and a lover of nature.

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