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Facebook Used VPN App to Collect Competitive Data on App Usage, According to Reports on Leaked Docs

U.K. Parliament today released 250 pages of internal emails between Facebook and other tech companies regarding accessing user data through the social network's system. The documents were seized by British lawmakers last month as part of UK Parliament's inquiry into "fake news."

The documents released today, indicate that Facebook's VPN app, Onavo, was much more invasive than previously reported. "Facebook used Onavo to conduct global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers, and apparently without their knowledge," says Damian Collins, chairman of the committee tasked with investigating disinformation. "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."

"To be fair, Facebook does actually disclose that it is monitoring the data that Onavo collects, except in a fluffier way," writes Evan Niu from Motley Fool. It says: "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."

Facebook in its response today argues that websites and apps have used tools like Onavo for market research services for years. "We use Onavo, App Annie, comScore, and publicly available tools to help us understand the market and improve all our services."

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