Facebook's Protect security feature is essentially Spyware

Is in fact a VPN service designed to route your web browsing through its servers to collect and analyse user data

Facebook web page

Facebook is rolling out a fresh security feature called Protect to its app that is essentially Spyware.

With a name that is likely to lure users into a false sense of security, the new Protect feature is touted as "an added layer of security", but it is in fact a VPN service designed to route your web browsing through its servers to collect and analyse user data.

The VPN service is powered by Onavo, an Israeli mobile analytics company now owned by Facebook. While the inclusion of Onavo's VPN tools within the Protect feature is stated by the social network in the product's terms of service as a means to "improve Facebook products and services", the company states the process collects users' mobile data traffic to "gain insights" into their online browsing behavior - which could also be interpreted as "Spyware".

Buried underneath the read more link on both the iOS App Store and the web, the Protect terms of service information reads:

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"To provide this layer of protection, Onavo uses a VPN to establish a secure connection to direct all of your network communications through Onavo's servers.

"As part of this process, Onavo collects your mobile data traffic. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analysing your use of websites, apps and data. 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."

According to TechCrunch, there are an estimated 33 million users who have Onavo Protect installed, with 38% being on iOS and the other 62% being on Android.

And while Onavo's app store description explains clearly in its Ts&Cs that it's "a part of Facebook" and used to "gain insights into the products and service people value, and build better experiences", the potential impact on privacy is not going to be very clear to the average Joe.

Featured Resources

Digitally perfecting the supply chain

How new technologies are being leveraged to transform the manufacturing supply chain

Download now

Three keys to maximise application migration and modernisation success

Harness the benefits that modernised applications can offer

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

The 3 approaches of Breach and Attack Simulation technologies

A guide to the nuances of BAS, helping you stay one step ahead of cyber criminals

Download now


internet security

Avast and AVG extensions pulled from Chrome

19 Dec 2019

Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular

operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
public sector

UK gov launches £300,000 SEN EdTech initiative

22 Jan 2020

Windows 10 and the tools for agile working

20 Jan 2020
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020