Personal Privacy

The Problem with Onavo, the Facebook VPN

The Redacted Brief
The VPN application Onavo is being added as a menu item in Facebook’s iOS app. The app itself isn’t new, with Facebook acquiring it back in 2013. However, in terms of privacy protection, it simply doesn’t stand up when compared to other privacy-oriented VPNs.

On the surface, the app does everything a regular VPN would do including encrypting your data and warning users of malicious websites. When you look a bit deeper though, it’s very pervasive about being on all the time, and it’s difficult to turn it off. While it’s on, it allows Facebook to track your browsing even when you aren’t on their social media platform.

The system that the Onavo app uses is based on deep data-monitoring and they aren’t shy about this either. They openly admit that they use this information in their Facebook app, as it is written in the App Store description. People who are looking for VPNs that prioritize privacy want a service that will never log or save their data. Onavo does the exact opposite.

A popular privacy researcher has said that because the app is free, you’re paying for the service with your personal data. The app reserves the right to use all of your information and even give your information to law enforcement if asked for it. And while Facebook keeps trying to justify its actions, the large technical community is giving a strong pushback by educating their users about the dangers of these practices.


Original Via Wired:

THIS WEEK, REPORTS have percolated that Facebook is testing a new menu item, called “Protect,” in its iOS app. The feature sports a blue shield icon, and tapping it redirects you to the App Store listing for Facebook-owned VPN app Onavo Protect. But while Onavo does claim to offer some tools that make the web safer, in practice it falls far short of the privacy protections that VPN users reasonably expect.

Onavo itself isn’t new; Facebook acquired it in 2013, and has nudged users to it through the Protect prompt on Android since 2016. Like all VPNs, it’s a private platform that acts as a portal to connect you to the larger internet, tunneling your data through an encrypted path to reduce the risk of eavesdropping.

See the full article at Wired:

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