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Photo: Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Australian government's regulatory commission announced Wednesday it's launched legal proceedings against Facebook and two of its subsidiaries for allegedly engaging in "false, misleading or deceptive conduct" in regards to a mobile app.

Why it matters: Governments around the world are clamping down on tech giants. Australia's lawsuit is similar to one filed against Facebook last week by the Federal Trade Commission and most states, which alleges the firm illegally hurt competition by buying smaller rivals and "converting personal data into a cash cow."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims acknowledged during a briefing "there is a link to what the FTC is saying, but they're looking at a competition issue."
  • He added "we're looking at the consumer" in the Australian case against Facebook and subsidiaries Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc over the Onavo Protect VPN app, which is no longer available.

Driving the news: The ACCC alleges the defendants "misled Australian consumers" from February 2016 to October 2017 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," per an ACCC statement.

  • The app allegedly "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," the statement added.
  • "This data was used to support Facebook’s market research activities, including identifying potential future acquisition targets."

What they're saying: A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters the firm was "always clear about the information we collect and how it is used."

  • "We will review the recent filing by the ACCC and will continue to defend our position in response to this recent filing."

Of note: Facebook said in September it would block users in Australia from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if parliament passed a law that would force tech giants to pay publishers to distribute portions of their content.

  • Facebook and rival Google "won a key concession" when the bill was introduced last week, with updated language that "recognizes the monetary value the platforms provide to news businesses by directing readers to their websites," Bloomberg notes.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 21, 2021 - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution seeks to bar Trump from holding office again

Sen. Tim Kaine (center) and Sen. Susan Collins (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Stark reminder for America's corporate leaders

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.