A security expert has warned that Facebook’s new free VPN service may be collecting even more user data for the social network.
Launched last month, the new service called Protect, is sending significant amounts of data back to Facebook about users who use the new application.
According to security researcher Will Strachan, who examined the code behind the VPN Protect app for iOS, the app tells Facebook when the user’s smartphone screen is on or off, and how long they have been connected to mobile data and Wi-Fi.
It also tells Facebook how long the user has been connected to the VPN and gathers other information such as location data, language, name of mobile carrier and the version of the operating system installed on the smartphone.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it also collects data even when the app is no in use, Strachan claims.
While collecting data of this nature may not be particularly intrusive even small amounts of data may be enough to identify someone, especially when it is paired any of the other vast amounts of data Facebook stores on a user.
And the fact that the Protect app collects data at all goes against the principles the privacy and protection a VPN service is meant to offer its users.
With that being said, the description for the app in the App Store is explicit in its intentions regarding data collection.
“Onavo collects your mobile data traffic,” the description reads.
“This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps and data. Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.”
Onavo Protect was bought by Facebook back in 2013.
Last month, Facebook started promoting the app to iOS users of the social network.
The move drew criticism from people who said that Facebook was promoting the VPN service without making it clear to users that it owned Onavo.
Tech site Wired even went as far as warning its readers not to trust the Onavo Protect VPN that was being promoted by Facebook.