Project Ghostbusters: Facebook Accused of Using Your Phone to Wiretap Snapchat, Youtube, Amazon through Onavo VPN

Court filings unsealed last week allege Meta created an internal effort to spy on Snapchat in a secret initiative called “Project Ghostbusters.” Meta did so through Onavo, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service the company offered between 2016 and 2019 that, ultimately, wasn’t private at all.

“Whenever someone asks a question about Snapchat, the answer is usually that because their traffic is encrypted we have no analytics about them,” said Mark Zuckerberg in an email to three Facebook executives in 2016, unsealed in Meta’s antitrust case on Saturday. “It seems important to figure out a new way to get reliable analytics about them… You should figure out how to do this.”

Thus, Project Ghostbusters was born. It’s Meta’s in-house wiretapping tool to spy on data analytics from Snapchat starting in 2016, later used on YouTube and Amazon. This involved creating “kits” that can be installed on iOS and Android devices, to intercept traffic for certain apps, according to the filings. This was described as a “man-in-the-middle” approach to get data on Facebook’s rivals, but users of Onavo were the “men in the middle.”


A team of senior executives and roughly 41 lawyers worked on Project Ghostbusters, according to court filings. The group was heavily concerned with whether to continue the program in the face of press scrutiny. Facebook ultimately shut down Onavo in 2019 after Apple booted the VPN from its app store.

Prosecutors also allege that Facebook violated the United States Wiretap Act, which prohibits the intentional procurement of another person’s electronic communications.


Prosecutors allege Project Ghostbusters harmed competition in the ad industry, adding weight to their central argument that Meta is a monopoly in social media.

Source: Project Ghostbusters: Facebook Accused of Using Your Phone to Wiretap Snapchat

Who would have thought that a Facebook VPN was worthless? Oh, I have been reporting on this since 2018

Robin Edgar

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