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Cyprian Is Nyakundi

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Facebook to shut down controversial vpn app that harvested user data for market research.

A report by TechCrunch indicates that Facebook has finally agreed to shut down a controversial malware app from the Google play store dubbed “Onavo”.

The app that was highly criticized for its ability to collect private data and spying on its users, posed as a VPN that offered users extra privacy protection.

Facebook troubles with the spying app began mid last year when the giant tech company was forced to pull down the app from the apple store after various users raised privacy concerns.

Facebook acquired Onavo back in 2013 for nearly $200 million in a bid to gather data on users content habits. While in the public, Facebook marketed Onavo as a secure virtual private network (VPN)-based app that limited other apps on a smartphone from using the background data, in the background, the app collected critical information such as the time spent by individual users in various apps on their smartphone, mobile data and Wi-Fi data used by individual apps and websites visited by individual users among other things

According to an investigative report, TechCrunch last month revealed that Facebook used Onavo VPN code in the development of Facebook Research app that was used in obtaining various users information such as contents of private messages in social media and chats from instant messaging apps, photos, videos, emails, web browsing activity, all the apps that are stored on your phone and the data in them, apps that you frequently use (even when the app uses encryption technique), location history of where the owner had physically been, data usage and screenshots of their Amazon order history page.

“Market research helps companies build better products for people. We are shifting our focus to reward-based market research which means we’re going to end the Onavo program,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement

The Onavo VPN app is set to be shut down completely  in the coming weeks and will no longer be collecting data sent through the app for market research purposes, but will continue to operate as a legitimate VPN app for a short period of time while users find an alternative app.

In a statement Facebook added that they will no longer be recruiting new Research testers for the app in android. However existing studies will continue to run as users looks for a different alternative app.

 


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