The U.K. parliament is releasing its cache of secret internal Facebook documents. Among the revelations, we learn more about the company’s free VPN app that was essentially spyware.
The Onavo VPN app was spyware designed to collect data from the people that used it. After six months and public outcry Apple removed it from the App Store. The internal Facebook documents describe how it used Onavo to target the competition:
Facebook used Onavo to conduct global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers, and apparently without their knowledge. They used this data to assess not just how many people had downloaded apps, but how often they used them. This knowledge helped them to decide which companies to acquire, and which to treat as a threat.
Facebook knew that the changes to its policies on the Android mobile phone system, which enabled the Facebook app to collect a record of calls and texts sent by the user would be controversial. To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app.
You can see the full cache of Facebook emails here [PDF].