A popular television commercial brought a new phrase to the public vernacular: “That’s not how this works… that’s not how any of this works.” The woman in the commercial obviously has no clue how Facebook works as she shows her friends all the photos she’s posted to her wall… the one in her living room, that is.
Ironically, Facebook learned “that’s now how this works” when Apple recently requested the removal of its VPN app Onavo Protect from the App Store. The app, which Facebook acquired from an Israeli company nearly five years ago, has been put to use intentionally gathering and storing data on the users even outside the app, information which Facebook used for its own purposes.
Ideally, installing a VPN protects you from others who are trying to see what you’re up to, but Facebook actively monitored users’ behaviors in order to apply the findings to its other tools. In essence, they told customers there was a private tunnel to the internet that would protect them from outsiders, while knowingly watching and recording what those customers were doing.
As Nick Statt for The Verge reports, “Onavo Protect also allegedly violated a part of the iOS developer agreement that regulates how app makers make use of data outside the core function of the software. Onavo Protect is a VPN service, and yet Facebook has been using the traffic routed through its private servers for broad analytic purposes.”
Reportedly, Apple didn’t force Facebook’s hand in removing the app, but suggested it since it violates recent changes to the App Store terms and conditions, and Facebook agreed. It’s worth noting that the Android version of the app has not been removed from the Google Play store.
This is only the latest in a long line of shoddy privacy behavior on Facebook’s part, and users have voiced their concern. A mass exodus from the site and the growth of competing platforms don’t spell good news for Facebook, and with every new revelation of data gathering and spying the company’s esteem continues to plummet.