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ACCC Takes Facebook To Court Over Data-Mining VPN App

The ACCC is dragging Facebook before the Federal Court, accusing the tech giant of misleading users and mining their data with its Onavo Protect VPN app.

The consumer watchdog is seeking declarations and pecuniary penalties for Facebook’s actions between February 2016 and October 2017. It alleges Facebook promised consumers that Onavo Protect would keep user data private, protected, and secret, and not be used for any purpose other than providing the app’s services.

Instead, according to ACCC Chair Rod Sims, Facebook collected, aggregated, and used Onavo customers’ data, including records of apps accessed and time per day spent using those apps, for its own market research activities.

“Consumers often use VPN services because they care about their online privacy, and that is what this Facebook product claimed to offer. In fact, Onavo Protect channelled significant volumes of their personal activity data straight back to Facebook.

“We believe that the conduct deprived Australian consumers of the opportunity to make an informed choice about the collection and use of their personal activity data by Facebook and Onavo,” he said.

Onavo Protect was kicked out of the Apple App Store in 2018 for breaching rules around collecting information on users’ other installed apps, and the Google Play Store later followed suit. The app was shut down entirely last year.

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