Facebook continues to be in damage control mode due to a number of high-profile privacy gaffs recently. The Cambridge Analytica debacle was followed by the revelation Facebook had been paying teens in return for spying on them. Now the social network’s controversial mobile VPN service is being shut down completely.
Early in 2018, Facebook started promoting a new VPN app called Onavo Protect. It existed to keep data private while you browsed the Web, but at the same time the app tracked you and sent information back to Facebook. By August, Facebook had voluntarily pulled Onavo Protect from iOS after Apple decided it violated app store rules. However, the app continued to be offered to Android users.
If that wasn’t enough of a reason to kill Onavo off completely, it turns out the same underlying tech used in the security app powered the pay-for-surveillance appdiscovered in January, which led to Apple briefly pulling Facebook’s developer certificates.
Now it seems, Facebook is ready to shut down Onavo for good. As TechCrunch reports, Onavo Protect for Android will immediately stop collecting data from users who have it installed. If you are one of those people, I’d urge you to uninstall it at your earliest convenience. The app will continue to be available for a while so that users have time to find an alternative.
It’s worth pointing out that by losing Onavo, Facebook also loses access to valuable market research data. This will have to be replaced, with paid programs “where users explicitly understand what privacy they’re giving up for direct financial compensation” being the most likely solution according to TechCrunch.