Facebook shouldn’t mess around with privacy, or with intentionally distributing misinformation.And yet this week the company has added a ‘Protect’ option to their iOS app that leads people to a VPN app (from a company owned by Facebook) that claims to ‘keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web’ when in fact what it does is quite the opposite.
If you make the mistake of downloading the free Onavo Protect app (Do not do this) you get a VPN that probably does shield that data from ISPs and WiFi lurkers – just like any other VPN. But this particular VPN has one feature that (hopefully) every other one lacks: it intercepts and appropriates 100% of your data and browsing information and gives it to Facebook.
Yes, the Onavo company slogan may as well be: “none of your information will be stolen, except by us.’
They don’t hide this unsettling fact: “Onavo collects your mobile data traffic. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps, and data. 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.”
It’s hard to say why they neglect to mention the fact that they’re building a huge dossier on you, monitoring that data, and manipulating the content you see across your digital life, but perhaps there are character limits on app store descriptions.
As @aral said on twitter:
Choosing to use Facebook is a tacit agreement to trade personal data for access to the service. The company long ago expanded their data-collection operations beyond the bounds of the website and their own apps, putting tracking code on millions of websites and buying data from your grocery store loyalty cards and more. You can add a good blocking extension to your browser to avoid some of this, get new loyalty cards using fake or alternate emails, and stay logged-out of the Facebook site/app when not using it to dramatically reduce the amount of your data that they obtain.
And use a VPN, just do not use Onavo Protect.