Facebook’s VPN app is collecting your data

Catherine Harris

By Catherine Harris


We are forever hearing about the huge amount of personal information Facebook collects about us. From salary to browsing habits, and even what car you drive.  This data is invaluable to advertisers looking to more effectively target users based on specific characteristics.

Facebook is currently rolling out a new security feature in their iOS app called “Protect”. While many users may be happy to see their Facebook experience made more secure, the reality is that this Facebook-owned VPN app is designed to collect and analyze user data to “improve Facebook products and services.”

Facebook acquired the security software company Onavo back in 2013. It is the Onavo Protect iOS app that is behind Facebook’s new “Protect” feature.

Traditionally VPN apps are used to route a device’s Internet traffic through a secure server to help prevent eavesdropping on your personal data.  However, it appears that users privacy may not be Onavo’s top priority, stating that “Onavo collects your mobile data traffic” and that “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.”.

It has also been reported that the VPN app is more persistent than some of its competitors, trying to keep the VPN connected all the time and routing all internet traffic, not just social media.  This means that if you enable the “Protect” feature and install the Onavo app, they (and by extension Facebook) will be able to analyze which websites you visit, the apps you use, and how your online behavior changes over time.

Techcrunch estimates that the Onavo Protect app is currently installed on 12 million iOS devices.  Just think what the social networking giant could do with all that data…

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