After an investigation and report from tech enthusiasts, Facebook has finally planned to end and close down its market research programs and Onavo VPN app. This is after a huge backlash that Facebook was using the app to suck up personal data about teenagers. Onavo had been promised to be an app that will limit other applications from using too much and protect users’ personal information behind a secure network. The app will be pulled off from Google Play Store, months after it was gotten rid of on the Apple App store for violating the Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program for employee-only apps. Registration of new users for the market research app has also been ceased.
Onavo was an app that allowed Facebook to know how much time users spent on mobile/Wi-Fi data per app and also monitor what sites they visit. It also showed what country the users were form and the device model used. Facebook has then decided that the idea of an of giving users a Virtual Private Network in exchange for silently monitoring their online activities as a daft one. The tech company will now focus on giving users paid programs where they can clearly comprehend what they are giving up before consenting to it.
Onavo was acquired by Facebook in 2013 for $200million majorly for purposes of market research. The program enabled them to gather data on users’ activities over time and this gave them the urge to even purchase WhatsApp for a sum of $19billion. To protect the obviously useful asset on their side, Facebook then came to present Onavo as an app that would protect users from dangerous websites, reduce data usage and keep their data traffic safe. The app was however for their own good as it gave them insights on the market trends, their competitors. This includes Snapchat who were swept off by the cloned version of their features, Instagram stories.
Facebook very valuable tool is, however, going down the drain in the end after an expose on how it used code from Onavo to create a new research app to pay users for accessing their data. Users in ages 13-35 mainly in India and the USA gave up their personal data in exchange for gift cards per month. Having clearly violated the App Store policies and guidelines, this arose Apple’s concern and later led it being yanked out, alongside Facebook’s enterprise certificate and all its internal applications.
Facebook having lost their precious Onavo, have lost a huge strategy method of how to curve the market to their own advantage. The data gathering has obviously been a huge part of their success on apps like WhatsApp and Instagram and would have helped them further. But with a growing trend of apps turning to encryption, you would see why the tech giant grew desperate to start paying users. It is, however, a hope that Facebook does finally get to respect the policy of users privacy and innovate more strategies of market research without violating the different platforms’ guidelines.