While many thought the revelations about Cambridge Analytica we pretty bad, it turns out they are just the tip of the iceberg. Alongside revelations that Facebook has been collecting call and text history there are now reports the social network has been using their VPN software to gather users’ psychological profiles.
VPN reviewers, VPN Special, were putting together their review when they discovered that Onavo Protect, which is owned by Facebook, contains traces of the HotKnot Library.
In their report, VPN Special said HotKnot is mostly used to exchange data by touching two compatible devices one with the other. But it’s also used by some companies for conducting market research.
The asked Facebook about it and the company, after some probing said “While we did not use them (the functions are empty as you can see when decompiling), they have been removed and will not be included in new versions of Protect”.
In many countries, it’s impossible to access Facebook without a VPN. So it makes sense for Facebook to offer one they know will increase access to their services. But in being able to use that software to gather more information, which can then be correlated with data collected in the core Facebook app, they can create very detailed pictures of people movements, preferences and habits.
There are plenty of good VPN solutions out there. Given Facebook’s recent track record, and these revelations by VPN Special, it’s hard to recommend Onavo Protect to anyone who values their privacy.