Facebook’s VPN Onavo Collects User Data

Onavo, a free virtual private network (VPN) client acquired by Facebook in 2013, is now displayed as one of the iOS Facebook application “Explore” options under the header titled “Protect.” Selecting “Protect” redirects the user to the Onavo Protect – VPN Security app listing in the App Store. Although VPNs are primarily used to create a secure and encrypted connection to another network over the internet, many people choose to use VPNs while browsing the internet for privacy and to anonymize their online activity. When the option first appeared, several security researchers warned Facebook app users of possible privacy issues since Onavo admits to collecting users’ data, their mobile network traffic, and monitoring their use of mobile applications for the improvement of Facebook’s products and services. Many critics of the app argue that Facebook is not transparent enough about their ownership of Onavo or the potential use of collected data. In the cybersecurity field, it is commonly known that free software and applications often collect user data to sell to marketers and other interested parties for a profit. The NJCCIC recommends users always read the terms of service or the terms and conditions of use, as well as requested device permissions, before installing any software or applications. We encourage users thoroughly research products, such as VPNs, prior to use. 

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