Social media giant Facebook reportedly plans to shut down its unpaid market research program and Onavo, a VPN app which collected personal data on those using it.
TechCrunch reports that social media giant Facebook plans to end its unpaid market research programs, starting by removing its Onavo VPN app from the Google Play store after it was discovered that code from Onavo was being used in a Facebook Research app that aimed to gather information about teenage users.
The Onavo Protect app is set to be shut down entirely soon and will no longer be collecting data sent through the app for market research purposes, but will continue to operate as a legitimate VPN app for a short period of time while users find a replacement app. While the Facebook Research app was removed from the iPhone app store, the app has still been active on the Android Google Play store — but Facebook will no longer be recruiting new users for the app. Existing studies taking place on the app will, however, continue to run.
Onavo was transparent about the data the app collected, telling users that it would keep track of “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.” However, many believe that users were not adequately made aware of the data being collected.
A Facebook spokesperson commented on the shutdown of the app stating: “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.”
Facebook has previously used data collected by Onavo to benefit the company in a number of ways; after acquiring Onavo for $200 million in 2013 Facebook discovered through monitoring data through the VPN that users were sending far more messages per day via WhatsApp than they were on Messenger, resulting in Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp.
But following a scandal related to the collection of this data, Onavo will be removed from all mobile stores while no more research testers will be recruited to the Facebook research app.