There’s a new menu item in the Facebook app, first reported by TechCrunch on Monday, labeled “Protect.” Clicking it will send you to the App Store and prompt you to download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service called Onavo. (“Protect” shows up in the iOS app. Gizmodo looked for it on an Android device and didn’t see it—though, presumably it is only a matter of time.)
Facebook, however, purchased Onavo from an Israeli firm in 2013 for an entirely different reason, as described in a Wall Street Journal report last summer. The company is actually collecting and analyzing the data of Onavo users. Doing so allows Facebook to monitor the online habits of people outside their use of the Facebook app itself. For instance, this gave the company insight into Snapchat’s dwindling user base, even before the company announced a period of diminished growth last year.
To put it another way, Onavo is corporate spyware.
If you’re someone who can’t live without Facebook or simply can’t find the courage to delete it, the Onavo appears under the “Explore” list just above the “Settings” menu. I’d recommend you never click it. Facebook is already vacuuming up enough your data without you giving them permission to monitor every website you visit.
If you want a VPN, buy a good one!