Facebook pulls privacy-invading VPN tool

Facebook is pulling the plug on an intrusive VPN app that they were using to spy on the data usage habits of children as young as 13. The app, based on a tool called Onavo, offered teens $20 gift cards for using the service which, in turn, reported on the teen's browsing habits.

Facebook claimed that Onavo would help reduce data charges and protect users against viruses and other dangers. But, unfortunately, it also told users that it would record "time you spend using apps, mobile and Wi-Fi data you use per app, the websites you visit, and your country, device and network type.”

The company called the app a market research product and told TechCrunch that “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.”

Further, the app targeted 13 to 15 year olds in India and the US, offering them $20 gift cards to allow it root access on their Android phones.

In this specific case, it seems, moving fast and breaking things has become synonymous with invasions of privacy. With a few companies holding the keys to our virtual lives, expect more tools like Facebook's to storm through the walled gardens that are our cellies - assuming decentralized tools don't solve this soon.

About Author

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times. He runs the Technotopia podcast about a better future. He has written five books including the best book on blogging, Bloggers Boot Camp, and a book about the most expensive timepiece ever made, Marie Antoinette’s Watch. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Disclosure: Biggs owns and maintains cryptocurrencies in a private account and has been consulting with startups regarding blockchain-based products. He also edits and writes for startup clients.