Meta Companies Penalised $20m for Onavo Protect VPN’s Misleading Claims

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Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are a method by which people can more securely use and access public internet connections, reduce some communication costs, and bypass internet censorship. The privacy and protection of personal information is an important selling point of VPNs and one that was used to sell Onavo Protect in the Google and Apple App stores. However, Meta (previously Facebook) and its wholly-owned subsidiaries Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc., recently agreed to pay $20m in penalties for misleading consumers that their data would only be used for the benefit of Onavo Protect, when the gathered data was also used for commercial purposes.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) first instituted proceedings against Meta (then Facebook Inc.), Onavo Inc., and Facebook Israel in December 2020 out of concern that consumers seeking privacy and to protect their data via VPN were instead having their data used for the commercial purposes of the social media giant. The case has now been dismissed by the Federal Court of Australia after the parties reached successful settlement negotiations.

Onavo Protect was available for active use in Australia from December 2016 to its cessation in May 2019.

Source: The ACCC’s media release on the case and penalty can be found here.