Facebook stops controversial VPN app and puts a stop to assumptions for Research app

Facebook will stop unpaid market research programs and the VPN app Onavo. The company is also no longer taking on new users for the Facebook Research app. Over the past month, the company has come under fire for its market research practices.

The Onavo app can no longer be found in the Google Play store. According to TechCrunch, who spoke with a spokesperson for Facebook, the app can still be used as a VPN for the time being. Thus, users can look for an alternative. However, the app will immediately stop collecting data for market research.

Reportedly, Facebook used the Onavo app to gain insight into app usage. Facebook presented the app as a VPN provider that could keep data safe and limit data usage. However, the ‘secure VPN network for personal info’ turned out to pass app usage information to the medium. For example, Facebook knew that WhatsApp processed twice as many messages per day as Messenger. That is why the social medium took over the messaging service, BuzzFeed writes.

Last summer, Facebook already removed the Onavo app from the Apple App Store. Apple found that the app violated the terms of its download store, so it asked Facebook to remove the app. Since then, it was only available for Android.

Facebook will also stop hiring new users for the Facebook Research app. Existing market research, however, will continue to run. The company wants to do more paid market research in the future.

The Research app came under fire last month. In exchange for up to $20 in gift cards per month, users in the United States and India, ages 13 to 35, had to give up virtually all of their phone privacy. The service picked up private messages in social media apps, sent photos and videos, internet searches and location data. Root access was required to use the app. The service was first deployed in 2016. The app contained a lot of code that Onavo also had.

The app could not be downloaded from the App Store, but only via services such as Applause, BetaBound and Utest. The media company claimed the app was in line with Apple’s Enterprise Certification program, which allows companies to share internal company apps. Apple disagreed with that claim and withdrew the certificate for Facebook. Since then, the app has stopped working for Apple users.