In what can only be described as a laughable irony, Facebook's VPN app collects and tracks users' data about their online habits. Yes, that's right. A VPN - you know, that piece of software you install when you want to make your use of the internet anonymous and detached from your IP address - that does the exact opposite by tracking your mobile traffic.
It's only fitting, then, that in this tale of ironies, Facebook has integrated the Onavo VPN service it acquired back in 2013 under the 'Protect' tab in the settings of its main mobile app on iOS. A similar feature is not yet found in the Android version of the app.
Navigating to that section of the app will direct you to download the Onavo Protect VPN from the App Store. While the app claims to 'keep your data safe' and add an extra layer of protection to your mobile traffic by routing it through their servers, if you navigate a bit further down on its description in the App Store, you can find the following:
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 analyzing 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.
As a result of this clause basically admitting the Facebook-owned VPN will be collecting data on all your mobile traffic and then analyse it to further Facebook's understanding of your life and habits, many have called it spyware.
Thankfully, it's not activated by default and requires you to navigate to the Protect tab in the app's settings, and then install the app yourself. Users who are concerned about Onavo's tracking of your mobile traffic should refrain from installing the app, and perhaps consider the bevvy of other VPNs that readily deny tracking your data usage.
In other Facebook news, the company was also found to be in violation of German privacy laws with regard to the default settings on its website, further adding to concerns about the social network's almost unparalleled control over user data.