Australia Slapped Meta with 20 Million Fine for Unrevealed User Data Collection

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The Australian Federal Court has ordered Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook, to pay fines amounting to A$20 million ($14 million) for unlawfully collecting user data through a smartphone application that was advertised as a means to protect privacy without disclosing its data collection practices. Additionally, Meta, including its subsidiaries Facebook Israel and the now-defunct app Onavo, has been directed to pay A$400,000 (approximately Rs. 2.2 crore) in legal costs to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which initiated the civil lawsuit against the company.

This fine marks the conclusion of one legal matter for Meta in Australia concerning its handling of user data, which has been a contentious issue since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted during the 2016 US election.

The case in question pertains to Onavo, a virtual private network (VPN) service that Facebook provided from early 2016 until late 2017, which was advertised as a tool to safeguard personal information. However, unbeknownst to users, Facebook utilized Onavo to collect and track users’ location, usage time, and frequency across other smartphone apps and websites for its own advertising purposes. The court’s judgment highlights the deceptive nature of Facebook’s actions, as it exploited the VPN service to collect user data without proper disclosure.

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