In a move that would come as a surprise to many, Facebook has decided to remove its Onavo VPN app from Google play store, according to a report by Tech Crunch. The company decided to remove its app after it faced a big backlash following TechCrunch’s investigation into the fact that the Onavo code was being used in a Facebook Research app that sucked up data about teens.
The report adds that the Onavo Protect app will eventually shut down, and will immediately cease taking data from users for market research. But the app will continue to operate for the time being and will continue operating as a Virtual Private Network to allow users to find a replacement.
After the uproar, the app has stopped recruiting new user for the app in Android. The Facebook Research App was removed off iOS TechCrunch reported that the app violated Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program for employee-only apps.
The social media giant acquired Onavo in 2013 for a reported figure of $200 million and to use its VPN app to gather data about what people were doing on their phones. The data revealed that WhatsApp was sending over twice the number of messages sent by Messenger. This figure convinced Facebook to acquire WhatsApp for a whopping sum of $19 billion to buy WhatsApp.
This led Facebook to go on and develop Onavo as a way for users to reduce their data usage, block dangerous websites, and keep their traffic safe from snooping, while Facebook used the data to analyze the traffic to know more about customer preferences and keep an eye on competitors and figure out which apps or features to develop.
The report further notes that Facebook ran the program in secret and it informed the users it recruited with ads on Instagram, Snapchat and elsewhere that they were joining a Facebook Research program.
With the removal of Onavo, Facebook loses one of the best tools for market research and one hopes that the social media giant is less secretive and more open about its future market research programs. The company should make sure that the unsuspecting users have been taken into confidence and they fully understand what data they are giving up.