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Facebook closes VPN app to spy on users

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Facebook closes VPN app to spy on users
Facebook is in the process of eliminating yet another privacy mess. This time, the company announced the closure of the VPN application, which spied on its users.



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In October 2013, Facebook acquired Onavo, a research firm. One of the reasons the company was targeted was its Onavo Protect VPN app.

If the name sounds familiar, it's because it was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Listings on the App Store or Google Play advertised that Onavo Protect provides users with the ability to control the use of data by background applications and protect their personal data.

Facebook, however, used Onavo Protect to monitor mobile user activity. Even worse, the company paid users at the age of 13 to install the Facebook Research application built on top of the VPN.

While users maintained the application in working order, they received $ 20 per month. They even earned bonuses for attracting other users.

The representative quickly noticed that “less than 5%” of the users of the application were teenagers, and all had parental consent.

Assuming this is true, it is unlikely that any of these parents understood the full extent of the “research” that Facebook conducted. The application installed a root certificate on users' devices, which gave it carte blanche access to their actions.

This root certificate ultimately led to the download of Facebook Research from the App Store. Apple only allows companies to use this type of certificate in internal applications. Using one in a consumer application violates App Store policies.

Now Facebook has announced that it will remove the application from Google Play. Onavo Protect will also be closed. Facebook will give its users time to find an alternative, and data collection will cease immediately.

VPN Risk Allocation

Although VPNs are often advertised as tools to protect your privacy, it’s important to understand the potential risks associated with their use. Once you have established a connection with the VPN service, the service provider knows everything that you do on the network.

This is how the Facebook Research application collected data about its users. Since the VPN connections went through the servers owned by Facebook, the company could track “the time you spend using the applications, mobile data and Wi-Fi data that you use for each application, the websites visited, as well as your country, device and network type. "

Perhaps none of them looks terribly big, but do not forget: this information was collected by a company that already knows a staggering amount of information about its billions of users.


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