Facebook is rolling out a new ‘Protect’ feature for iOS users where it is urging then to install the Onavo VPN app on their iPhone. While this sounds good on paper, the Onvavo VPN app collects a user’s browsing history and data in the context of improving its service.
Additionally, since Onavo is owned by Facebook, the data is also used by the social networking giant to improve it sown products and service, “gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.” This might not seem like a big deal, but the data helps Facebook in giving an edge over its competitors. It was due to this data that Facebook was able to realize Instagram’s popularity and purchase it. Similarly, the data allowed the company to know about the increasing popularity of Snapchat and take steps to counter it.
So, on the pretext of protecting you, Facebook is essentially telling you to install a VPN app on your iPhone which would allow it to analyze your browsing behavior and collect important data. The company has also confirmed to TechCrunch that it is only rolling out the new ‘Protect’ feature for Facebook users in the United States.
“We recently began letting people in the U.S. access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices,” Erez Naveh, Product Manager at Onavo told TechCrunch via email. “Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use. Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it.”
Once you install a VPN app on your iPhone or iPad, all your data activity is routed through their servers. This helps in protecting your privacy online. However, many VPN apps silently collect a user’s browsing history and use it to their advantage which ironically is a breach of their privacy.
Data from Sensor Tower points to Onavo being used by over 33 million users, with 38 percent of them being iPhone and iPad users while the remaining 62 percent are on Android.