Facebook for iOS Now Offers a VPN Client Under 'Protect' Option

Facebook for iOS Now Offers a VPN Client Under'Protect Option
Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads
Author

16 February, 2018

But there is one asking price - the user has to blindly trust the VPN company that they will never sell, snoop, record, or track their online activities.

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

Through a feature called Protect on its mobile app, Facebook is encouraging users to download the Onavo Protect VPN Client that collects additional user data, according to a TechCrunch report.

To see what we're talking about, head over to the Facebook iOS app, press the navigation button (three horizontal lines on the bottom right), scroll down, and you may see a new option labeled "Protect". Such data is attractive information for Facebook, hence why it bought the Israeli security company behind Onavo Protect in 2013.

Menlo Park social networking giant Facebook has started offering users a private virtual network (VPN) application that tracks and collects personal user data.

Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads
Facebook pushing trojan horse VPN that spies on users

First spotted by TechCrunch, you can find the option as a new menu item in Facebook's iOS apps. This means that while your ISP won't see what apps you're using, Facebook will.

'This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analysing your use of websites, apps and data. The app, Onavo Protect, has been sitting there, not doing a whole lot.

Despite its recent appearance in the iOS Facebook app, Onavo Protect isn't new, and was a source of controversy a year ago when the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook used Onavo-sourced data to determine that usage of the competing Snapchat app was slowing months before Snap announced that fact. Like all VPNs, it's a private platform that acts as a portal to connect you to the larger internet, tunneling your data through an encrypted path to reduce the risk of eavesdropping.

'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'. While it appears that the rollout is just to test the said feature in the country, many argue that Onavo VPN is only a part of a growing Facebook effort to spy on people's mobile activities and take down its competitors. 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). It can help you access your home or work network while traveling. The disclosure on the app notes that "Onavo collects your mobile data traffic". Adding network traffic will give them incredibly rich data about how we use our devices outside Facebook. And many users likely wouldn't realize that other VPNs approach privacy differently, and offer much more extensive protections. With a VPN, internet traffic is encrypted so that hackers cannot come in.

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