Facebook has introduced the ‘Onavo Protect’ VPN feature in its iOS app. It is corporate spying at its worst that masquerades as a free VPN (virtual private network).
In fact, ONAVO Protect is owned by Facebook, and yes, it is a free VPN provider – except that instead of keeping no logs of user’s web surfing enabling complete anonymity it apparently enables Facebook to granularly analyse all your surfing habits.
Analysts say that Facebook bought Onavo solely to allow it to monitor user activity across all apps outside Facebook. That gives this information-hungry company a huge advantage over say Google that cannot access VPN traffic – unless it too decides to play an Onavo type ruse.
According to Sensor Tower, the Onavo app so far has over 33 million installs on iOS and Android. Facebook Protect seems to be limited to its iOS version at present.
They also say it gives Facebook an unfair advantage in tracking the use of its competitor’s products like Snapchat.
GadgetGuy’s take – free VPN or spy?
Facebook is in no way a company concerned about your privacy. Its sole purpose is to gain as much information about you to monetise, e.g. sell to its advertisers. Until now its information date-rape was limited to what you confided in it – in your profile but also in what you posted.
Facebook has for some years been using various methods to collect data outside its confines – cookies, device fingerprinting developed for fraud detection (mac address, IP address, processor ID etc.) and Canvas fingerprinting of the HTML 5 canvas element of a web page and more.
Onavo Protect is a chilling advance – data collection on an extreme scale. You should:
- Stop using the drug of choice – Facebook – and remove every vestige of your existence
- Never click a third-party social media sharing button (like/dislike )
- Never use Facebook, Twitter, to sign into other supposedly unconnected sites (single sign-on)
- Sign out of any browser logins before browsing
- Pay attention to privacy policies
- Run AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, DoNotTrackMe, or similar
- Use in private browsing mode
- Use a VPN
If the term VPN confuses you have a read of The Best VPN Beginners Guide that simplifies the terminology.
By the way – those analysts are not wrong
While it will not share un-anonymised data with third parties it will with its owner Facebook.
We receive all of your mobile data traffic, including location data, after you download and agree to use our Apps, which direct your mobile data traffic through or to our server. We may also receive personally identifying information such as your name, email address, or other contact information.
When you use the Apps, you choose to route all of your mobile data traffic through, or to, Onavo’s servers. As a result, we receive information regarding you, your online activities, and your device or browser when you use the Services. For example, we may receive: