Facebook pushing trojan horse VPN that spies on users

16 February, 2018, 01:53 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads

Whether you are using the Facebook app, a web browser, your Global Positioning System, or any other program; if there is data to be collected from it, Onavo will have access to it.

Unfortunately in some cases, this tracking feature isn't always disclosed so publicly, and in some cases is masquerading as something else.

When users click "Protect" in the "Apps" section of the Facebook mobile app, they are sent to the "Onavo Protect - VPN Security" App Store listing where they can download the service for free. Back then, Onavo's business revolved around optimizing device and app performance as well as battery life on both iOS and Android devices.

Facebook bought Onavo, an Israeli company, in 2013. And Facebook does leverage that data for its own purposes; the Wall Street Journal reported in August that the company used data from Onavo to track the popularity of competitive startups and other user preferences, and to inform acquisition decisions. If you were to stumble on Onavo Protect in the App Store, you'd have to tap More and read the full description to discover that.

Facebook Inc. has started pushing a virtual private network app to some users, but it might be best to Mark Zuckerberg bearing gifts. It also offered data analytics services to mobile publishers to help them keep track of their app's performance.

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Even if Onavo Protect is nominally legitimate, albeit a massive privacy violation, quite a number of its reviews seem fake, which is also troubling. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use. This has been in both the iOS App Store and Android's Google Play for a while, but the button within Facebook appears to be new.

The app promises to warn you when you visit potentially malicious or harmful sites and help secure your personal information when you're connected to a public Wi-Fi network. The app describes itself as part of Facebook, and says right out that it's used to "improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and service people value, and build better experiences".

This gives Facebook so much data that they can easily spot new trends across the mobile ecosystem, tell if a new app is about to become a breakout hit, identify mobile features that resonate to users, and so much more.

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

There are several VPNs out there, and they essentially all do the same thing: route your internet traffic through a third-party server. Do you want to be a part of the problem, not caring whether or not Facebook is scanning your data?



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