Facebook is delivering a new VPN security feature called “Protect” for gadgets running on iOS, but a new report revealed that its coverage gives the company way more information to “improve its products and services” than most iPhone or iPad users might want to share.
According to TechCrunch, users of Apple devices can already access the Protect feature through the navigation panel of their Facebook app. This particular feature is the fruit of the social media giant procuring Onavo, a mobile data analytics company, in 2013.
Based on the report, the new layer of security for Facebook users with iOS devices was based on the Onavo Protect, a VPN security app. This particular feature was spotted first in 2016 but the percentage of Facebook iOS users who have access to it remains unclear.
Onavo Product Manager Erez Naveh confirmed to the outlet via email that the feature is relatively new and have only been available for some iOS device users in the United States.
“We recently began letting people in the U.S. access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices,” his email read.
Citing the App Store listing for the Onavo Protect, the outlet explained that it was meant to “warn users of malicious websites and keep information secure.” However, TechCrunch also revealed that Facebook has a different matter in mind when the company took over Onavo.
Apparently, the social media giant decided to buy the VPN company “to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem.”
“For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps’ new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.”
— VPN Security News (@vpnSecurityNews) February 13, 2018
Based on the app listing, the Facebook Protect gives users an added “layer of protection” by redirecting all of the user’s network communications through Onavo’s servers. This means every single data you receive or send will be available for the company’s use.
On top of that, Facebook’s product manager for Onavo Protect confirmed that the app might gather user’s mobile data traffic.
“Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use. Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others,” Naveh said.
However, he clarified that potential users are informed of this before they download it from the App Store.
“We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it.”
As far as TechCrunch’s data is concerned, an estimated 33 million Facebook users have already installed the spyware, a.k.a. the Onavo Protect app, with 38 percent on iOS and 62 percent on Android.