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‘Highly confidential’ documents reveal Facebook used VPN app to track competitors

Internal documents, made public as part of a cache of documents released by UK [Select Committee investigating Facebook], 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.

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.

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.