Facebook will end its unpaid market research programs and proactively take its Onavo VPN app off the Google Play store in the wake of backlash following TechCrunch’s investigation about Onavo code being used in a Facebook Research app the sucked up data about teens.
The Onavo Protect app will eventually shut down, and will immediately cease pulling in data from users for market research, though it will continue operating as a Virtual Private Network in the short-term to allow users to find a replacement.
Facebook has also ceased to recruit new users for the Facebook Research app that still runs on Android but was forced off of iOS by Apple after we reported that it violated Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program for employee-only apps. Existing Facebook Research app studies will continue to run, though.
With the suspicions about tech giants and looming regulation leading to more intense scrutiny of privacy practices, Facebook has decided that giving users a utility like a VPN in exchange for quietly examining their app usage and mobile browsing data isn’t a wise strategy.
Instead, it will focus on paid programs where users explicitly understand what privacy they’re giving up for direct financial compensation.
Onavo billed itself as a way to “limit apps from using background data” and “use a secure VPN network for your personal info” but also noted it would collect the “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.”
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the change and provided this statement: “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.”