Facebook's iPhone app nabs a 'Protect' option that borders on spyware

Facebook's iPhone app nabs a 'Protect' option that borders on spyware

Marketing Onavo within Facebook could also lead to a boost in users for the VPN app, although the company didn't acquire Onavo merely for its security protections.

Users browsing through the Facebook mobile app's extended menu might notice a new category labelled 'Protect.' If users click through, they'll be given the option of downloading an app called Onavo Protect.

The option is now found only in the iOS version of Facebook app, which suggests that the feature is more of a test than a full rollout. While it appears that the rollout is just to test the said feature in the country, many argue that Onavo VPN is only a part of a growing Facebook effort to spy on people's mobile activities and take down its competitors.

The Menlo Park, California, company could also use this information to find out how apps from rivals firms like Snapchat and Twitter are being used.

It is worth noting that Facebook purchased Onavo from an Israel-based company in 2013.

Thankfully, it's not activated by default and requires you to navigate to the Protect tab in the app's settings, and then install the app yourself.

According to a Wall Street Journal report a year ago, the acquisition was aimed to help Facebook understand rival applications and online behaviour of users outside the social network.

Have you tried the Onavo VPN?

Facebook has not issued a statement or comment regarding this new "feature", but as the story has been picked up by most major news outlets including CNBC, it is likely that Zuckerberg and team will address users' concerns before long.

'Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. After chasing Snapchat, iMessage or Instagram with feature additions in the latter, it monetized with things like company chat bots, and other weird ways that are not in-your-face ads while you are humbly conversing with your beau. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps, and data.

Indeed, Facebook is not shy in admitting the data-gathering, even if it's not shouting about it.

Thankfully, if you're anxious about snooping on public Wi-Fi networks, just make sure the website you're connecting to uses HTTPS-or that the app you're using encrypts your connection. When you tap this function, you are redirected to the app store where you can download "Onavo Protect - VPN Security" put out by Onavo, Inc.

Related Articles