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

"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

The IT Pro guide to Windows 10 migration

Everything you need to know for a successful transition

Download now

Managing security risk and compliance in a challenging landscape

How key technology partners grow with your organisation

Download now

Software-defined storage for dummies

Control storage costs, eliminate storage bottlenecks and solve storage management challenges

Download now

6 best practices for escaping ransomware

A complete guide to tackling ransomware attacks

Download now



Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft, not Amazon, is going to win the cloud wars

30 Nov 2019

Five signs that it’s time to retire IT kit

29 Nov 2019
Business strategy

Huawei takes the US trade sanctions into its own hands

3 Dec 2019
Mobile Phones

Pablo Escobar's brother launches budget foldable phone

4 Dec 2019