Facebook Promoting its Onavo VPN in Facebook iOS App

Facebook has started promoting the Onavo VPN client it acquired back in 2013 directly within the Facebook app for iOS devices. A link to the Onavo VPN client is available in the Facebook app in the United States under a new “Protect” section of the Facebook navigation menu.

To get to it, tap on the hamburger menu in the right hand side of the app, and then scroll down. “Protect” features a blue icon with a shield, and when you tap on it, it links to the Onavo VPN app in the iOS App Store.


As TechCrunch points out, while Onavo offers to “keep your data safe while you browse” and let you know when you “visit potentially malicious or harmful websites,” Facebook’s real aim with Onavo is tracking user activity across multiple different apps to learn insights about how its customer base uses third-party apps.

But Facebook didn’t buy Onavo for its security protections.

Instead, Onavo’s VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps’ new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.

In August of last year, The Wall Street Journal took a look at how Facebook uses Onavo to track what people do on their smartphones outside of the Facebook ecosystem. Using Onavo data, for example, Facebook was able to determine that the Instagram Stories feature was impacting Snapchat’s business well ahead of when Snap disclosed slowing user growth.

As The Wall Street Journal explains, whenever a person using Onavo opens an app or website, Onavo redirects the traffic to Facebook’s servers and logs the action in a database, allowing Facebook to draw conclusions about app usage from aggregated data.

Onavo for iOS and Android has been installed on more than 33 million devices, according to Sensor Tower, with 62 percent of those installs on Android. TechCrunch speculates that Facebook may be promoting Onavo in the iOS app to encourage more iOS users to download the app.

Facebook is clear about Onavo’s purpose, with a disclosure available on the App Store: “Onavo collects your mobile data traffic. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps, and data. 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.”

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Google promoting Home Max on Chrome’s New Tab Page

Google’s new Home Max speaker is pretty great. It can become deafeningly loud, and includes Google Assistant. The only downside is the price – $ 400 is quite a lot for a speaker. It looks like Google is trying to sell more of them, because the company has placed a small ad for the Home Max on Chrome’s New Tab Page.

Web browsers usually get plenty of angry users when advertising shows up on the New Tab Page, and both Chrome and Firefox have tried it in the past (in Firefox’s defense, Mozilla doesn’t make billions of dollars in advertising revenue to support the browser).

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Google promoting Home Max on Chrome’s New Tab Page was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Facebook is banning all ads promoting cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ICOs

It’s an “intentionally broad” policy aimed at stopping scammers.

Facebook is banning all ads that promote cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, in an effort to prevent people from advertising what the company is calling “financial products and services frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices.”

That means no advertiser — even those that operate legal, legitimate businesses — will be able to promote things like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings — ICOs for short — or binary options, according to a Facebook blog post.

A James Altucher crypto ad about bitcoin, delivered by Facebook’s Audience Network Peter Kafka
A James Altucher crypto ad, delivered by Facebook’s Audience Network

That also means that “crypto-genius” James Altucher, whose ads have appeared all over the internet and have become a meme of sorts for the entire crypto industry, won’t be able to advertise on Facebook.

Ads that violate the company’s new policy will be banned on Facebook’s core app, but also in other places where Facebook sells ads, including Instagram and its ad network, Audience Network, which places ads on third-party apps.

“This policy is intentionally broad while we work to better detect deceptive and misleading advertising practices,” wrote Rob Leathern, one of Facebook’s ad tech directors. “We will revisit this policy and how we enforce it as our signals improve.”

The cryptocurrency boom/bubble has led to scams and wild price fluctuations that have cost a lot of people — including unsophisticated investors — a lot of money. Scams are illegal, but gambling on investments you don’t understand is not.

Look for blowback from entrepreneurs and investors who argue that the move unfairly punishes legitimate cryptocurrency companies and related crypto products. Facebook’s board of directors includes two investors — Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel — whose firms have been prominent crypto backers.


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Airbnb’s CEO is promoting home rentals in places Trump reportedly labeled ‘shithole countries’

The tweets came a day after Trump’s immigration discussion with lawmakers.

A day after President Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations as “shithole countries” in immigration discussions with lawmakers, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky took to Twitter to promote some home listings in those destinations.

Chesky went on to say that there are currently 75,000 hosts in those markets earning a combined $ 170 million. He then tweeted out some of the most beautiful Airbnb homes in those locales.

And another:

The Washington Post and New York Times reported on Friday that the president grew heated in immigration discussions with lawmakers when they proposed a bill that would protect immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the news outlets reported Trump as saying.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” they also reported Trump as saying. “Take them out.”

Trump denied making the comments about Haitians.

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