Science & Technology

Australia slaps $13.57 million fine on Meta subsidiaries for ‘misleading’ users

Sydney, Australia, July 26 (EFE).- A court in Australia on Wednesday imposed a fine of AUD20 million ($13.57 million) on two subsidiaries of Meta, Facebook’s parent company, for “misleading” users over data collection.

Federal Court of Australia Judge Wendy Abraham said in her ruling that Facebook Israel and Onavo, subsidiaries of Meta, admitted that they “offered, advertised and promoted” the Onavo Protect application, in the App Store and Play Store, for iOS and Android users respectively, between Feb. 1, 2016 and Oct. 31, 2017.

Onavo Protect iss a virtual private network (VPN) owned by Facebook that allowed users to browse the internet anonymously with the promise of protecting their information.

“While Onavo Protect was advertised and promoted as protecting users’ personal information and keeping their data safe, in fact, Facebook Israel and Onavo used the app to collect an extensive variety of data about users’ mobile device usage,” the ruling said.

“An anonymized and aggregated form of that data was provided to their parent company, Meta Platforms Inc (Meta), and used by Meta for a range of commercial purposes,” it added.

The Federal Court’s decision comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued the two Meta subsidiaries in December 2020, arguing that the data collected by Onavo Protect was used to “support Facebook’s market research activities, including identifying potential future acquisition targets.”

Facebook, which in recent years has acquired several companies such as YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp, acquired US-based Onavo and Onavo Mobile, based in Israel, in 2013 to use its VPN software.

Last year, the Federal Court imposed a AUD60 million fine on Google – following a lawsuit by the ACCC – for “misleading representations” to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on their Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018. EFE


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