Facebook Used VPN data to Watch WhatsApp and Snapchat – UK Law Makers
Newly public documents reveal just how paranoid Facebook was of its potential competitors and shines new light on some of the company’s most important acquisitions.
The internal documents, made public as part of a cache of documents released by UK lawmakers, show just how close an eye the social network was keeping on competitors like WhatsApp and Snapchat, both of which became acquisition targets.
The documents, which are labeled “highly confidential,” show slides from an internal presentation in 2013 that compares Facebook’s reach to competing apps, including WhatsApp and Snapchat.
While Facebook and Instagram lead in marketshare, it’s clear why Facebook may have viewed Snapchat and WhatsApp as potential threats.
At the time, Snapchat had a reach of 13.2 percent and its iPhone app, which was growing fast, ranked at #16. Facebook’s own messaging app, Messenger, had 13.7 percent and was ranked #15.
READ ALSO: Nacee – Afihyiapa (Official Christmas Song)
Facebook tried to acquire Snapchat that year for $3 billion — an offer Snap CEO Evan Spiegel rejected. (Facebook then spent years attempting, unsuccessfully, to copy Snapchat before finally kneecapping the app by cloning Stories.)
And when it comes to WhatsApp, the data shows just how important the acquisition was to the company, and why it earned a $19 billion price tag. At the time, WhatsApp had a sizable reach in the United States, coming in third behind behind Skype and Facebook Messenger.
But WhatsApp was clearly outpacing Facebook when it came to engagement, with more than twice as many total message sends.
Facebook’s presentation relied on data from Onavo, the virtual private network (VPN) service which Facebook also acquired several months later. Facebook’s use of Onavo, which has been likened to “corporate spyware,” has itself been controversial.
READ THIS TOO: 8 Menzgold Customer Arrested for Evading Premises
The company was forced to remove Onavo from Apple’s App Store earlier this year after Apple changed its developer guidelines to prohibit apps from collecting data about which other services are installed on its users’ phones.
Though Apple never said the new rules were aimed at *Facebook, the policy change came after repeated criticism of the social network by Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Onavo is still available in the Google Play Store and to the thousands of people who downloaded the iOS version before it was pulled.
In a statement, Facebook defended its use of Onavo data saying, “websites and apps have used tools like Onavo for market research services for years.”
“We’ve always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used, including by Facebook. We let people know before they download the app and on the first screen they see after installing it.” *Facebook also noted that users can opt out of certain types of data collection in the app’s settings.
Source : mashable.com