Meta Companies Fined $20 Million in Australia Over That Awful Data-Harvesting App

Meta Companies Fined $20 Million in Australia Over That Awful Data-Harvesting App

Back in 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instituted proceedings against the company formerly known as Facebook and two of its subsidiaries, Facebook Israel Ltd and Onavo, Inc, alleging they engaged in false, misleading, or deceptive conduct when promoting its Onavo Protect mobile app to Australian consumers.

According to the ACCC, Facebook and the two subsidiaries misled consumers by telling its users that their data would be kept private, and that it wouldn’t be used for any other purpose than providing the service.

But instead, the app collected way more data than that: specifically, details about their internet and app activity, including records of every app they accessed and for how long, down to the second.

Now, the Federal Court has made a decision on the matter. It’s ordered Facebook Israel and Onavo to each pay $10 million for engaging in conduct liable to mislead in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

Per a statement from the ACCC, the Court declared that the two companies engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public in promotions for the Onavo Protect app – it ruled they failed to adequately disclose that users’ data would be used for purposes other than providing the app’s services.

The now-defunct mobile phone application offered users a free VPN service, which was said to help keep their web browsing private while also reducing the amount of data they used. (A reminder that nothing is free.)

According to the ACCC, it was installed more than 270,000 times by Australian users between February 2016 and October 2017.

The app was ultimately removed from Apple’s App Store in 2018 for violating its terms of service, including for collecting data about apps installed on the user’s device for reasons other than analytics. It was removed from the Google Play store in 2018.

This article has been updated since it was first published.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.