Facebook has never been away from privacy-related controversies and things have become worse since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. In recent reports, the company is withdrawing its Onavo VPN App from Google Play Store, based on the claims that the social networking company was using the app to receive data from users who have installed the application on their Android smartphones. This removal was quite expected.
A few weeks before, Facebook was drawn into controversy when it was found out that the company paid a number of customers to install an app named ‘Facebook Research.’ This app, which had root access to mobile network and data transfer logs of the device, was silently used to collect details about the user and obviously send that to Facebook servers. In fact, the code from Onavo was used for this Facebook Research app.
Following this controversy, Facebook Research app was removed from iOS as well. Since it was made clear that Facebook Research was functioning based on the codes of Onavo, the company is planning to remove it from Play Store. As of now, Onavo VPN is not available for download from Play Store. The case of those who are already using the app is not clear though.
The app description of Onavo VPN had said that “with Protect Free VPN + Data Manager, you can add an extra layer of security and data encryption [and] help secure your personal information when you’re on public Wi-Fi.” In the latter part of the description, Facebook also added that Onavo “may collect your mobile data traffic to help operate the Onavo service and improve Facebook Products.”
In a statement given to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson said that Facebook is focusing on the reward-based market research programs, which would also mean that it would be ending the data collection through Onavo and the project itself.