Wednesday, 23 May, 2018

Facebook's Onavo VPN comes under fire for privacy invasion

Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads
Velma Reese | 15 February, 2018, 17:46

On top of that, Onavo Protect also offers an extra layer of protection whenever users connect to a public WiFi or use their mobile data.

This data collection and Facebook's ownership of the company are disclosed in a "how it works" section at the bottom of the app's description. The latest development emerges amid the allegation raised against the social networking giant for using personal data of its users without securing their informed consent. Clicking through on "Protect" will redirect Facebook users to the "Onavo Protect - VPN Security" app's listing on the App Store.

Facebook bought Onavo, an Israeli company, in 2013.

The app notes that it route a user's web browsing through Onavo's servers to keep them secure from malicious websites and keep their data secure.

It is unclear how Facebook is planning to leverage the user data it will collect through the Onavo Protect app.

That Facebook is so keen to advertise the product through its app may also ring alarm bells for some. Facebook reportedly uses those insights to spot new apps that are surging with key demographics and decide which apps to buy before they blow up or which features to steal from other successful apps, like when the company undercut Snapchat by adding similar features to Instagram.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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"As part of this process, Onavo collects your mobile data traffic". The clamor over Onavo illustrates just how fragile Facebook's image is right now.

Onavo is a Virtual Private Network, or a VPN. It can make you look like you're in a different location, so you can watch the BBC's coverage of the Olympics instead of NBC's (lame) version. Using an encrypted tunnel, a VPN can prevent your broadband or wireless provider from keeping track of the websites you visit.

Many VPNs are paid services - the popular AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, for instance, charges $13 a month, or $120 a year. The problem is that, as you might expect from the link source, Onavo is owned by Facebook.

And, who's to say the data Facebook collects will not be subpoenaed or requested by law enforcement? Doing so allows Facebook to monitor the online habits of people outside their use of the Facebook app itself.

Why does this have people anxious?

In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook has confirmed that it had recently started rolling out the Onavo Protect app access directly from its iOS app.

"When you use our VPN, we collect all the info that is sent to, and received from, your mobile device. Because we're part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences". "For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more".

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