Friday, July 28, 2023

Lushington D. Brady: Meta Busted for Scamming and Spying

Late last year, this little snippet passed almost unnoticed in the NZ media:

The government is working with an Israeli-born surveillance firm named among a group of “cyber mercenaries” and kicked off Facebook for spying on people.

It is keeping most of the operations with Cobwebs Technologies secret, but they include Immigration NZ […]

Immigration NZ required the firm to be able to covertly collect data including people’s “political information” and “religious preference”, the documents show.

It could be worse, I suppose: it could be the Canadian government working with hackers and 4Chan users to illegally steal data from GiveSendGo.

But the big question is: why use a firm banned by Facebook for spying, when they could just cut right to the chase and go to the source itself? Because, as it turns out, Facebook (or, its owner, Meta) is a dab hand at illegally spying on its own users.

Two subsidiaries of Facebook owner Meta have been ordered to pay the Australian government $20 million for misleading customers by not adequately advising them a free security app was mining their data.

Consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched action against Meta companies Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc in the Federal Court, claiming they misled customers in promoting an app advertised as protecting users’ data.

In what appears little different from an outright scam, Meta spruiked its VPN app, Onavo Protect, as a way to “keep your data safe when you browse and share information on the web”, on Android and Apple. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel for your data, protect your online identity by hiding your IP address.

Unless, of course, your VPN comes courtesy of Zuckerberg and co.

But, the court heard, the ads did not make clear that tech giant Meta used Onavo Protect as a “business intelligence tool”, allowing it to “know nearly everything” users were doing on their mobile devices.

In other words, the diametric opposite of what a VPN is supposed to do.

“While Onavo Protect was advertised and promoted as protecting users’ personal information and keeping their data safe, in fact, Facebook Israel and Onavo used the app to collect an extensive variety of data about users’ mobile device usage,” [the judge] wrote in her judgement.

For all that, though, just how heavily is Meta being punished?

Justice Wendy Abraham ordered on Wednesday that the companies, both owned by Meta, pay $10 million each to the Commonwealth of Australia […]

“It carries with it a sufficient sting to ensure that the penalty amount is not such as to be regarded by the parties or others as simply an acceptable cost of doing business.”

She also ordered Meta’s companies to contribute $400,000 towards the ACCC’s legal costs.

$20 million? “A sufficient sting”? Oh, please: Zuckerberg spends more than that on decorative bottles of barbecue sauce.

The judge could have hit them with a really meaningful fine.

Justice Abraham wrote that under the Act, the maximum penalty that could imply was “more than $145 billion”, or $1.1 million for each breach.

In which case, Facebook users could no doubt expect to be inundated with private messages from Prince Zucko of Nigeria, offering them the deal of a lifetime.

Lushington describes himself as Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. This article was first published HERE


Anonymous said...

And we are expected to join their "new" Twitter rather than a open forum run by Musk.
Bum book as it should be known is eating our children, time we thought about this a little more.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust the rebranded X either, now that it's being marketed as the banking and messaging everything app. What could possibly go wrong?

Anonymous said...

X= 24th letter of alphabet - 2+4 = 6

Musk owns Telsa Model X + Space X + (666)

Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Marama had better look very carefully before crossing the road if he/she/they go to counter-protest. Quite a few white cis guys ride motorbikes and they are supposedly prone to violence.