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Facebook’s Protect iOS feature effectively installs spyware on iPhones and iPads

IRONY IN TECH is such a tasty dish, with the latest serving arriving in the form of Facebook’s ‘Protect’ security tool that effectively installing spyware on iPhones and iPads.

Facebook Protect is a feature for iOS devices that directs people to a virtual private network (VPN) app called Onavo Protect, which Facebook snapped up in 2013.

The app notes that it route a user’s web browsing through Onavo’s servers to keep them secure from malicious websites and keep their data secure. Sounds pretty good so far.

And like many VPN services, Onavo collects and analyses mobile data traffic to operate and improve its service; nothing too unusual there for anyone who’s not a total privacy freak.

However, being part of Facebook means Onavo shares that data with Facebook which can use it to improve its own products and services and “gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences”, according to the app’s small print.

So essentially the app is providing a form of non-malicious spyware that feeds Facebook’s already bulging data coffers. Not something many users of VPNs would expect or want.

There’s also an argument that neither Onavo or Facebook make it clear as to what data is being collected and how exactly it’s being used.

However, Erez Naveh, product manager at Onavo, appears to have told TechCrunch that the data collection is simply about delivering secure connections and uncovering cybercriminal hacking techniques.

“We recently began letting people in the U.S. access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices,” Naveh explained.

“Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognise tactics that bad actors use. Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it.”

Given that there are tens of millions of Onavo Protect users, with 38 per cent of the user base on iOS devices, Facebook and Onavo have a lot of data at their fingertips.

And as Onavo Protect is free to use in the US, the now common question of how willing are you to part with your data in exchange for a free and useful service is raised once again. µ

Source : Inquirer

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'Professional Hackers India'. Technology Evangelist, Security Analyst, Cyber Security Expert, PHP Developer and Part time hacker.

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