Why do people usually use a VPN connection over the Internet? Usually it is for added security and privacy. What if a VPN offered security, but even less privacy than without it – would you use it?
Well some people are and probably do not even know it.
In 2013 Facebook bought an Israeli company, Onavo. Onavo bills itself as a data analytics company – which makes perfect sense why Facebook would purchase it.
But where do they get the data that they want to analyze?
Well that’s easy. They also make a VPN software product – a virtual private network – that creates a secure tunnel for you to send your Internet traffic over.
However, unlike reputable VPNs which work very hard to collect as little data about you as possible, hence aiding your privacy, Onavo collects as much data as possible about it – to aid Facebook’s mission of shoving more ads down your digital throat.
According to a Wikipedia article (here), Facebook is also using Onavo to internally monitor competitors, influence acquisitions and make other business decisions.
If you have the Facebook iPhone app installed and you click on the menu item for Protect, it will direct you to download Onavo.
It also has an Android app available in the Google Play store.
Facebook says that by collecting as much data as possible about your use of the Internet they can protect you better. Hmmm, interesting thought. Other companies seem to do that without having to track what sites you visit.
Many anti-virus products have a browser plugin that looks at the site you want to visit and see if it is malicious. They don’t need to store the history of what sites you have visited nor do they need to associate those sites with your advertising ID in order to tell if the site is malicious.
Unlike most VPN products that only run when you ask them to run, Onavo tries to stay in your browsing stream all the time. After all, it cannot collect data on your browsing habits if it is not running.
Onavo says that it may retain your data for as long as you have an account. Or beyond. I somehow don’t think that is required to protect you either.
So, if you are looking for more targeted Facebook ads (and ads on those other web sites that use the Facebook ad platform), this is the software for you.
If you are looking for privacy, I am thinking there are probably better alternatives.
Information for this post came from Wired.