Dutch consumer org warns against Facebook Onavo Protect VPN app

Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads

Clicking this option will redirect you to the App Store where you can download Onavo Protect, a VPN app made by the Israeli startup Onavo, which Facebook acquired in 2013. Facebook reportedly uses those insights to spot new apps that are surging with key demographics and decide which apps to buy before they blow up or which features to steal from other successful apps, like when the company undercut Snapchat by adding similar features to Instagram.

Facebook users on iOS are being prompted to download the Onavo Protect VPN client, which collects user data across apps.

Clearly, that menu item in the Facebook app should be labeled "Collect" instead of "Protect".

This is why most people who use a VPN do so - hide from censors, so that their country of origin is warped to bypass privacy laws. A VPN helps you to stay secure online and keep your browser history from malicious websites and bad actors. It's another thing when the company in question is part of Facebook, and that data can be combined with both any data you've allowed Facebook to have and any data about you that people you know have inadvertently provided to Facebook. If you want to use a powerful VPN service for free, you have to expect the company to make money in some regard, and that happens to be your data for Facebook's uses.

Because information always translates to power. The fact that a VPN app is collecting your data is already counter-intuitive enough without the tucked away effort at transparency. For instance, Facebook was able to get insights on the declining user base of Snapchat even before the latter announced it past year. And many users likely wouldn't realize that other VPNs approach privacy differently, and offer much more extensive protections. Of that total, 62% of the users are on Google Play which is probably why Facebook gave Onavo a push on the iOS platform.

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Speaking to TechCrunch, Erez Naveh, Product Manager at Onavo, said: "We recently began letting people in the USA access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices".

Facebook has not issued any comment or official statement regarding the matter.

Finding a trustworthy VPN is hard. There are literally a thousand other apps to choose from, both free and paid. Over the past two years, its has been tumbling through one turmoil after another, drawing ample criticism at every stage.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

The choice, at the end of the day, is in your hands. It matters because it is widely held that Facebook's primary policy regarding your privacy is that you can exclude anyone from gathering your information except (well, aside from Facebook). In the last few days, users have discovered a new option when you tap the hamburger button to access your pages, shortcuts, and settings.

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