Facebook pushing trojan horse VPN that spies on users

Feb 16, 2018, 02:56
Facebook pushing trojan horse VPN that spies on users

It seems that the more connected we are, the more we are being tracked.

Facebook who is no stranger to privacy-related controversy has adopted a novel way to collect and track its users' data that gives information about their online habits.

Unfortunately in some cases, this tracking feature isn't always disclosed so publicly, and in some cases is masquerading as something else. Facebook acquired Onavo Protect and its VPN technology in 2013, but iOS users in the us are just starting to see the redirect link in the main Facebook app that leads to the Onavo Protect - VPN Security app in the App Store.

Recently, users of the Facebook iOS app noticed a link to something labelled Protect within settings.

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Facebook bought Onavo years ago, and is now pushing its VPN app through the social media giant's mobile app on both Android and iOS, the report said.

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.

However, it's not likely that all Onavo users understand they're actually feeding Facebook the information that allows it to take on any challenger to its social networking empire. It was also data from Onavo that reportedly inspired Facebook to launch a group video chat feature to its Messenger app - styming a smaller app called Houseparty, which provided a very similar feature. Not only will it be a useful advertising strategy, its promise to warn users of malicious websites while ensuring the security of their information could boost its number of users.

Yet the Onavo app also tracks data that it shares with Facebook and others, "including the applications installed on your device, your use of those applications, the websites you visit and the amount of data you use", according to its own privacy policies.

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Simply put, the Onavo VPN acts as Facebook's corporate spyware.

The Onavo app has more than 33 million installs on iOS and Google Play. But on both platforms, Onavo is more pervasive than standard VPNs, and attempts to be on all the time instead of just when you want a little extra protection. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognise tactics that bad actors use. The application could further help Facebook gain knowledge on how its rivals, Twitter and Snap are being used by users. "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.

Facebook has used this tool for a competitive advantage against other mobile apps. Do you want to be a part of the problem, not caring whether or not Facebook is scanning your data? Many corporations ask their employees to use VPNs when they are working remotely.

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