Facebook was once a socializing platform where users could connect with each other. Slowly the concept evolved when Facebook started moving towards dirty unethical practices which costed the company. With a shaky year, Facebook is still recovering from the
Cambridge Analytica scandal, while the company is trying to recover user trust after their data was exposed.
But that didn't stop the company to engage in more controversies as Facebook is shutting down its Onavo VPN app since it was found to be a data collection platform.
Onavo VPN - All you Need to know
Onavo is the app founded in 2010 and is among the award-winning mobile utility apps. Millions of users started using Onavo worldwide as a means to secure their smartphones and tablets. Owned by Facebook, the app offers a virtual private network VPN setup to keep your
data safe and hidden while browsing or streaming online. This app was designed to attract as many users as possible as it falls under the brand name “FaceBook”.
Onavo App - Harvesting User Data in Disguise
The app was removed from the iOS app store as it was
violating Apple’s app regulations and data collection practices. Later Facebook decided to take it down from the giant Google Play store as well. Bottom line, we can say social media and users are more informed then they were a few years back. Users have the knowledge to understand and seems like a signal that social media network is fully aware of the unethical privacy breaches.
When Facebook took charge of the Onavo app in late 2013, it was running as an independent VPN service that offered anonymity to help monitor their own data usage and curtail the background activities o n their smartphones. Onavo was later collecting market researched data on the amount of times users spent on the app, the websites being visited, the country of origin and the network being used.
Facebook, contemplated that combining all that info could be a potentially powerful tool in its data grabbing hands which
cost nearly $200 million to Facebook. Majority of the Onavo users had no clue with the change of ownership as the culture of keeping a check on privacy policies is lacking. New app downloaders had no clue that the app was a product of Facebook and this was never revealed in the process.
TechCrunch was the instigator that
found the Onavo app missing from Google Play store, but the app continued to function on smartphones who have already installed it. In a question asked by Gizmodo to Facebook, the mediator of Facebook said:
“Market research helps companies build better products for people. We are shifting our focus to reward-based market research which means we’re going to end the Onavo program.”
Just as any other VPN service, Onavo Protect alotted different IPs to users and hide their real IPs from being tracked or redirected. Users were trying to protect themselves against companies like Netflix and Comcast; they never realized that they were giving away their access to information to one of the biggest scandals of all time.
Onavo VPN App - More insight on FaceBooks Mischevious Data Retention
It was also found that Onavo was monitoring and keeping a proper check on competitor analyses and how their services were performing against competitors like picture exchanging platform Snapchat. Further, documents projected that Facebook was using the apps data to learn users character and get insight on things like why users are sending more pictures through WhatsApp than their facebook messenger app.
All this seems odd, but FaceBook practiced these, and it led them to buy WhatsApp for a shocking $19 billion in 2014. Things took a shift when FaceBook started encouraging users to download Onavo with targeted ads and marketing gimmicks. It is when Apple took severe action about the user privacy violation and Facebook without a prior fight or legal notice, removed the app from the iOS store.
Future of FaceBook
It’s evident that Facebook is far away from getting any trouble with the law because shutting the Onavo app entirely was a smart move. Facebook should be open and blunt about its future endeavors and research involvements as the giant social media platform is the market leader when it comes to social platforms.
However, with time the trust and ethical factor of the company has slowly shifted and its hard for users to rely on the company again. Even with the strict GDPR policies, the company went on collecting data on users. What about the data that has already been collected on users? It is unclear how the company will use that data, and no one can figure that out as well.
We can only prepare for the upcoming and learn from these mistakes as not to wholly trust any app or service and try to make use of privacy tools to take charge of your online security.