Onavo Protect
News | 09/05/2018

The “Snoopy” Onavo Protect- Another Wave of Criticism to Facebook

About: Onavo Protect is a VPN Client and a product of Onavo that was acquired by Facebook in October 2013. The VPN Client promises to help users to monitor their data usage and protect their information. However, the app has been wrenched for harvesting use...  Read More  

| News | The “Snoopy” Onavo Protect- Another Wave of Criticism to Facebook

Lucas Stefanko, the famous malware hunter who has made a commendable contribution in finding malicious malware like Trojan, has yanked Facebook for harvesting user’s data through Onavo Protect . It is a VPN Client that professed to help the users to monitor their data usage and protect their personal information.


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In February 2018, Facebook was reported to advertise Onavo VPN app within Facebook app for iOS users in the United States. Thereafter, Onavo was declared as a spyware by the media outlets as the app had no significant mention of Facebook’s ownership that led to the denouncements of the app.


Onavo started as an independent organization in 2010 and developed mobile apps like Onavo Protect etc.  They announced their acquisition by Facebook on 13th October 2013. The Onavo Protect App aims to protect the e-mail accounts against the phishing attacks, help users to monitor their data usage & to secure their data when they browse and share information on the web.


Onavo Protect was hyperlinked in the navigation menu under the option “Protect”. A mere click on “Protect” will redirect the users to “Onavo Protect- VPN Security” app in the App Store.

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It is still obscure as what percentages of Facebook iOS users are able to see this option. However, promoting Onavo Protect within the Facebook app could lead to unethical boost in the users of this VPN App. As it used to promise to secure sensitive information like- login credentials,credit card information, user could have opted to download it. Surprisingly, Facebook did not buy Onavo for its security features. This VPN provider became a data-gathering tool in the hands of Facebook!


According to famous malware researcher, Lukas Stefanko, the Facebook’s Onavo security app has been tweaked for collecting user’s information like location, displacement details, installed & used application, visited websites & browsing habits and sending it back to Facebook even when the app is inactive/turned off. Confounded for being a serious privacy threat, Onavo enabled Facebook to spot new trends through the widespread mobile & digital ecosystem. The gathered information made a way for Facebook to purchase WhatsApp in year 2014 and social media’s excursion of “Live Video” in year 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported.


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Previously this year, Apple took the initiative to protect user’s privacy and data throughout the Apple Ecosystem by customizing its privacy regulations to forbid apps that collect user’s data, targeting services like Onavo. Apple informed Facebook about the violation of App Store and developer guidelines by Onavo Protect that paved a way to the meeting between Apple and Facebook officials several times occurring at Apple park, Cupertino, California. Facebook was suggested to “voluntarily” remove this snoopy VPN Client from the App Store, to which Facebook agreed, according to the report of the Wall Street Journal.


In August 2018, Facebook pulled out its controversial and spyware-like Onavo protect from the App Store, however the android version of the app will remain in Google Play Store. The iOS users who already have Onavo VPN in their phones can continue using it, but Facebook will not issue any futher updates to the app, as WSJ reported. In addition to that, Facebook emphasized that it did not use the harvested data for advertising/marketing purposes, but the data was being used for analytics on what all apps are prominently used and in what all ways!


The Onavo controversy is another setback for Facebook, which has brought a wave of criticism and malignancy to Facebook!

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