Facebook: Please Download Our VPN App That Tracks You

by Fredrick Graves February 16, 2018, 2:52
Facebook: Please Download Our VPN App That Tracks You

Facebook is rolling out a fresh security feature called Protect to its app that is essentially Spyware.

Though Facebook's Android app has recommended the Onavo VPN for some time, its inclusion in the iOS app generated more notice, and has provoked pushback from the technical community. It's this lack of clarity that has privacy advocates in a spin. "Onavo collects your mobile data traffic", reads the App Store description. What's more, a VPN service can mask your own IP address from those websites, helping you to traverse the net without surrendering locational data.

In particular, the app states that it shares information 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". So essentially the app could be tracking you in nearly every conceivable way. Back in 2013, Facebook acquired Onavo, the company behind the VPN tool Protect.

In reality, though, these statements aren't any different from the sort of information any other VPN would take from you. Those who already know what a VPN is might not bother with the blurb and trust Onavo as an impartial entity.

Facebook is encouraging some users in the U.S. 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.

And, who's to say the data Facebook collects will not be subpoenaed or requested by law enforcement?

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Facebook is not a privacy company; it's Big Brother on PCP.

A VPN is supposed to prevent your broadband or wireless provider from tracking you across the world wide net so that you can browse in peace. If, say, lots of young people become infatuated with a cool new app, Facebook can decide how it wants to respond.

The option is now found only in the iOS version of Facebook app, which suggests that the feature is more of a test than a full rollout. It is indeed a VPN - a virtual private network - that securely tunnels all your traffic through Onavo's servers. This means that while your ISP won't see what apps you're using, Facebook will. "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 reads. As part of this process, it collects a user's mobile data traffic as well, according to its App Store page.

'We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it'.

That's when Facebook announced it was buying Onavo, a mobile analytics startup based in Israel. VPNs also help users in authoritarian countries bypass censors by convincing websites their country of origin is, for example, the USA or Switzerland, the latter of which has some of the world's strictest privacy laws.

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