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Facebook's Onavo VPN is Causing Serious 'Spy Issues' for FB Users

15 February 2018

As spotted by the folks over at TechCrunch, Onavo Protect VPN client, which was acquired by Facebook back in 2013, is now available within the Facebook iOS app, and can be found under the banner "Protect" in the app's navigation menu.

With a name that is likely to lure users into a false sense of security, the new Protect feature is touted as "an added layer of security", but it is in fact a VPN service created to route your web browsing through its servers to collect and analyse user data.

And as if that was not enough, Facebook rolled out another product named "Onavo Protect - VPN Security" meant to help users manage mobile data either by limiting an app's data usage or by setting them to use only a WiFi connection.

It reads: 'To provide this protection, Onavo uses a VPN to establish a secure connection to direct all of your network communications through Onavo's servers. As part of this process, it collects a user's mobile data traffic as well, according to its App Store page.

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It further mentions that Facebook also uses this data to "improve" its products and services.

Users choosing the "Protect" option in the Facebook iOS app are being sent to download a VPN app that also allows Facebook to track their phone use, TechCrunch reports.

There's also an argument that neither Onavo or Facebook make it clear as to what data is being collected and how exactly it's being used.

As ever, with any app you download, you should carefully read the product description and any other relevant info such as permissions, before you go ahead with installation. It's important to remember, while they mask your activity from your ISP, the VPN company itself may be able to see virtually everything you do online. If you tap on Protect, you will be redirected to the Onavo Protect - VPN Security app on the App Store.

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Initially, the app description seems reasonable enough - it's pretty much what you would expect from a VPN.

"We recently began letting people in the USA access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices", Naveh explained.

It is unclear how Facebook is planning to leverage the user data it will collect through the Onavo Protect app. Instead, the tech giant is particularly interested in its capability to monitor user activities across different apps. We've separately verified the presence of the Protect option on the Facebook app installed on one of our iOS devices in India. However, the good news is that the app is not activated by default and requires you to navigate to the Protect tab in the app's settings, and then install the app yourself.

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Facebook's Onavo VPN is Causing Serious 'Spy Issues' for FB Users