TechCrunch reported that Facebook “will end its unpaid market research programs and proactively take its Onavo VPN app off the Google Play store”. This comes after TechCrunch’s investigation about Onavo code being used in a “Facebook Research” app that was sucking up data (including the data from teenagers).
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.
TechCrunch pointed out: “To preempt any more scandals around Onavo and the Facebook Research app and avoid Google stepping in to forcibly block the apps, Facebook is now taking Onavo off the Play Store and stopping recruitment of Research testers.”
On the one hand, it is good that Facebook is removing Onavo from the Google Play Store and that it will be shutting it down. It is a step in the right direction. Personally, I do not trust that this move means that Facebook is suddenly going to act more ethically toward its users and their data. What is stopping Facebook from creating a new app that sucks up data as much as Onavo and Facebook Research did?
Facebook could have avoided this whole problem simply by being honest and ethical with its users. Instead, it decided to behave poorly and be sneaky about what it was doing. If TechCrunch hadn’t investigated the Facebook Research app, it seems very likely that Facebook would have continued to use it. Personally, I don’t see why anyone should trust that Facebook will change its data-addicted ways.