ACCC alleges Facebook misled when promoting app to ‘protect’ users’ data

• Onavo Protect was a free downloadable software application providing a virtual private network (VPN) service.

The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Facebook, Inc and two of its subsidiaries for false, misleading or deceptive conduct when promoting Facebook’s Onavo Protect mobile app to Australian consumers.

Onavo Protect was a free downloadable software application providing a virtual private network (VPN) service.

The ACCC alleges that, between 1 February 2016 to October 2017, Facebook and its subsidiaries Facebook Israel Ltd and Onavo, Inc misled Australian consumers by representing that the app would keep users’ personal activity data private, protected and secret, and that the data would not be used for any purpose other than providing Onavo Protect’s products.

In fact, the ACCC alleges, Onavo Protect collected, aggregated and used significant amounts of users’ personal activity data for Facebook’s commercial benefit. This included details about Onavo Protect users’ internet and app activity, such as records of every app they accessed and the number of seconds each day they spent using those apps.

This data was used to support Facebook’s market research activities, including identifying potential future acquisition targets.

“Through Onavo Protect, Facebook was collecting and using the very detailed and valuable personal activity data of thousands of Australian consumers for its own commercial purposes, which we believe is completely contrary to the promise of protection, secrecy and privacy that was central to Facebook’s promotion of this app,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

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