Dutch consumer org warns against Facebook Onavo Protect VPN app

Dutch consumer org warns against Facebook Onavo Protect VPN app

Dutch consumer org warns against Facebook Onavo Protect VPN app

However, tapping Protect takes you to the App Store and displays an app called Onavo Protect - VPN Security.

Given that there are tens of millions of Onavo Protect users, with 38 per cent of the user base on iOS devices, Facebook and Onavo have a lot of data at their fingertips.

Onavo, on the other hand, expressly combs through, analyzes, and tracks user data over time, feeding it directly to Facebook. At The WSJ reported last August, Facebook could tell that Instagram's launch of Stories - a Snapchat-like feature - was working to slow Snapchat's user growth, before the company itself even publicly disclosed this fact.

The push to promote Onavo Protect was first spotted in the USA version of the Facebook app for Apple devices. There's an Android variant called Protect Free VPN+Data Manager, which seems to offer the same usage stats and VPN protections, albeit with a different UX design.

Onavo is a Virtual Private Network, or a VPN.

While the exact nature of the data being monitored by Facebook is unknown, it is possible that it could be used to monitor a user's browsing on any other site.

Undocumented immigrant, father of leukemia patient, takes refuge in Phoenix church
Berrones is the family's sole breadwinner. - A Valley father who is facing deportation is seeking refuge in a church. Shadow Rock is one of hundreds of churches across the US that are participating in the "sanctuary church" movement.

Facebook is encouraging some users in the USA to download an application that allows the company to track other applications on users' device, all under the guise of "protect" section that is supposed to help users keep themselves secure online.

Onavo does clearly state Protect is owned by Facebook, and that it shares information with the company but, per Apple App Store's design, the information is found under the expanded "description" tab. If you're looking for the privacy benefits of a VPN, this is not what you want to hear.

And like many VPN services, Onavo collects and analyses mobile data traffic to operate and improve its service; nothing too unusual there for anyone who's not a total privacy freak. "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", the description of the app reads.

Now the good news is that users don't have to install Onavo on their phones if they don't want to.

'Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. As part of this process, it collects a user's mobile data traffic as well, according to its App Store page. Adding network traffic will give them incredibly rich data about how we use our devices outside Facebook.

Many VPNs are paid services - the popular AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, for instance, charges $13 a month, or $120 a year. We've separately verified the presence of the Protect option on the Facebook app installed on one of our iOS devices in India. Using an encrypted tunnel, a VPN can prevent your broadband or wireless provider from keeping track of the websites you visit. Because Facebook owns Onavo, Facebook gets access to that data.

Related news