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

Feb 16, 2018, 02:53
Facebook's Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads

It seems that much of the outcry is that Facebook is the one benefiting from your information, rather than the information it's recording. But of course, by using the Onavo VPN, you're providing your browsing data to Facebook, so beware. Facebook acquired Onavo Protect and its VPN technology in 2013, but iOS users in the US are just starting to see the redirect link in the main Facebook app that leads to the Onavo Protect - VPN Security app in the App Store.

Though Facebook's Android app has recommended the Onavo VPN for some time, its inclusion in the iOS app generated more notice, and has provoked pushback from the technical community. Interestingly, Facebook reportedly acquired Onavo Protect back in 2013, and the ultimate aim of the hidden redirection is found to collect and analyse user data.

As well as doing all the usual stuff you expect from a VPN, like protecting data communications with encryption, Onavo is being used by Facebook to "collect your mobile data traffic".

If you head to Facebook's settings and scroll down-you may need to click "More" to view more options-you'll see this button.

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Facebook Inc. has started pushing a virtual private network app to some users, but it might be best to Mark Zuckerberg bearing gifts. "We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it". But the problem lies in Onavo Protect's VPN feature.

This data collection and Facebook's ownership of the company are disclosed in a "how it works" section at the bottom of the app's description. On the app store, Onavo's description reveals it is "a part of Facebook", and that it can be used to "improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and service people value, and build better experiences" - similar to the policy Facebook has in place for its other platforms.

'Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites.

Privacy-conscious mobile users should consider disabling Facebook Protect to limit the amount of their data that is collected.

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In case you ever doubted Facebook's commitment to hoovering up as much information about you as it can, the company has come under fire for a change in the Facebook app for iOS in the United States.

And, who's to say the data Facebook collects will not be subpoenaed or requested by law enforcement? "The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use", Erez Naveh, a product manager for Onavo, said in a statement.

"Unlike other providers, Onavo Protect tries to keep the VPN connected all the time, and channel all internet traffic", says Ankur Banerjee, a technology architecture delivery team lead at the management consulting firm Accenture. Many corporations ask their employees to use VPNs when they are working remotely.

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