Facebook VPN Remains on Google Play Despite Privacy Concerns

Facebook’s purchase of Onavo in 2013 gave the tech giant its first foothold in Israel.

February 6, 2019 20:27
2 minute read.
Onavo Protect

Onavo Protect . (photo credit: ONAVO PROTECT VIA FACEBOOK)


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In August 2018, Apple pulled Facebook’s Onavo VPN app from their store in response to concerns over a violation of privacy guidelines. Suspicions that the app was being used to collect data from unwitting users for marketing and research purposes prompted a backlash to the app’s release, causing Apple to act decisively. While the app’s terms and conditions make explicit its intentions to collect data, this surreptitious side to the app was considered distasteful considering the primary purpose of a VPN is to heighten security rather than compromise it.

Despite this furore, the app remains accessible on the Google Play store. This is some comfort for Onavo, the Israeli analytics company that Facebook acquired in 2013 for a fee reported as up to $200 million. Onavo develop a range of apps but their most notable product is the Onavo Protect app, with Facebook integrating the app’s capabilities into its various platforms for a time.

Its retention by Google Play suggests that much of that controversy has now subsided, although it does highlight the need to be wary of free VPN services. An increasing number of people are turning to VPN apps and programs, whether in response to the rise of cybercrime or in an effort to enhance privacy through means of anonymity and obfuscation.

Riding the wave of that growing popularity of the VPN is a range of new companies and products that all claim to offer the best service. While price is not always an absolute indicator of quality, many of the free VPN apps come with questionable levels of security and integrity. This is why many consumers elect to sign up to subscription services for VPN programs. In such a crowded market, it is imperative to consult the views of experts. The VPN services reviewed by VPNbase all come with a star rating that encompasses both value for money and reliability, allowing consumers to make an informed decision rather than selecting the first free app found.

Facebook’s purchase of Onavo in 2013 gave the tech giant its first foothold in Israel. What should have been a positive move for the company has instead attracted controversy at a time when Facebook can ill afford more blows to its reputation. Considering that much of the denigration of Facebook has centred on its relationship with its users’ personal information, the Onavo flashpoint was particularly untimely in 2018.

Of course, a tech giant like Facebook should theoretically provide a strong guarantee of security, although Apple’s decisive action in removing the Onavo Protect app is encouraging on their part. Future VPN endeavours cannot be ruled out from Facebook, although there is uncertainty surrounding the company’s future. As a free service from a massive company, Onavo Protect sounded perfect on paper but turned out to be too good to be true. With a multitude of well-reviewed and trustworthy VPN services out there, 2019 will likely see a growing number of people eschew free apps and invest in a VPN subscription service for that extra peace of mind.

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