A report by a Commons committee has detailed Facebook’s use of an application to “spy” on users.

The cross-party group said that Facebook used its Onavo virtual private network (VPN) app to gather information on competitors.

The MPs claim Facebook “intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws”.

Monitoring competitors

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee wrote that through the use of Onavo, which was billed as a way to give users an extra layer of security, Facebook could “collect app usage data from its customers to assess not only how many people had downloaded apps, but how often they used them”.

The report added: “This knowledge helped them to decide which companies were performing well and therefore gave them invaluable data on possible competitors. They could then acquire those companies, or shut down those they judged to be a threat.”

A graph the committee includes in the report shows an analysis of data collected with Onavo, detailing how commonly apps were used by Facebook owned and rival services.

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