Facebook 'Protect' software installs spyware on iOS

Facebook Offers A VPN Client Under'Protect Option For iOS

Facebook can use that data to track what users do online even when they're not on one of its websites.

Unfortunately in some cases, this tracking feature isn't always disclosed so publicly, and in some cases is masquerading as something else.

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.

Marketing Onavo through the Facebook app leads to a direct boost in users for the VPN.

Onavo was the Tel Aviv-based mobile data analytics company acquired by Facebook back in 2013.

And as if that was not enough, Facebook rolled out another product named "Onavo Protect - VPN Security" meant to help users manage mobile data either by limiting an app's data usage or by setting them to use only a WiFi connection. If, say, lots of young people become infatuated with a cool new app, Facebook can decide how it wants to respond.

If you launch the Facebook app on your smartphone, pop into the settings and scroll down the "Explore "section (you might need to tap on a "Show more" option) you'll find a link to something called Protect".

Our recommendation: If you use the Facebook app on your iPhone or iPad, don't get suckered into installing 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.

'Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites.

The Onavo app today has more than 33 million installs across the iOS App Store and Google Play, according to data from Sensor Tower.

When reached for comment, Facebook didn't directly address concerns about the company using the data to help its business. "Because we're part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences", the description reads. The report notes that Facebook has already leveraged data from Onavo Protect "in a number of ways, most notably in its battle with Snapchat".

'Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. "The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use", Erez Naveh, a product manager for Onavo, said in a statement. Adding network traffic will give them incredibly rich data about how we use our devices outside Facebook. With a VPN, internet traffic is encrypted so that hackers cannot come in. Most of its users are either in the United States, India or Brazil. It's another thing when the company in question is part of Facebook, and that data can be combined with both any data you've allowed Facebook to have and any data about you that people you know have inadvertently provided to Facebook.

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