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Rsz tpickren-onavoapp2.jpg
“Onavo app" text
Type Data Analytics
Launch Date 2010
Status Active
Product Line Service
Platform Online
Website Onavo Official Website

Onavo is a data and analytics collection firm located in Tel Aviv, Israel that provides analytical products for mobile apps as well as consumer grade VPNs. Purchased by Facebook in 2013, Onavo transitioned to become Facebook's first Israeli office. They also began to shift their focus to assisting Facebook's Internet.org initiative. [1] More recently, Onavo and Facebook have come under fire for pushing Onavo on Facebook users, claiming that it will help keep them secure. In reality, Onavo would allow Facebook to have unfettered access to the user's data, even outside of Facebook.


Guy Rosen & Roi Tiger

Onavo co-founders Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger first met during their shared military service in Israels 8200 unit. After being discharged, the two went their separate ways. Guy Rosen began working at various Israeli startups. Roi Tiger found initial employment at Modu, a modular cell phone start up, but soon bounced around various startups. [2]

During this time, a friend of Roi Tiger's took a trip to Barcelona, Spain, and returned with a wireless roaming bill of over $1,000. Roi Tiger was shocked to hear the cost of roaming that could occur as a result of traveling. With this problem in mind, Roi Tiger began to devise ways to reduce cell phone bills. [3] During 2009, Roi Tiger ran into Guy Rosen by chance and together, the two laid the groundwork for what would become Onavo.

In 2010, they officially founded Onavo with Guy Rosen taking the position of CEO and Roi Tiger acting as the CTO. Created with the intent to save their users from wasting money on their data plans, the initial version of Onavo allowed users to be able to compress data usage while still using their device for up to five times the amount (compared to non-compressed data usage) of high-streaming activities such as web browsing and photo sharing. [4] Onavo quickly found an audience with their app and had over a million users. [5]

By 2012, all-in-one unlimited data plans were fast becoming the norm, decreasing the relevancy and need for Onavo. Although it still provided various benefits, users had less and less reason to use the app. Because of this, Onavo began to stagnate. [6]


Onavo App

Fortunately for Onavo and it's employees, Facebook came to their rescue. In October of 2013, Onavo announced that they were being bought from their current venture capital group, Magma Venture, by Facebook. While the exact price tag is unknown, reports estimate that Facebook spent between $100 and $200 million for the Israeli start up. [7]

Part of the agreement in the buyout was for Onavo to become Facebook's first Israeli branch. Previously, Facebook had been in talks to buy the path-finding app Waze but the deal fell through in part to Waze’s insistence to not shutdown their Israeli office and relocate to the U.S.. Because of their failed acquisition of Waze, Facebook did not attempt to make Onavo do the same. [8]

Facebook seems to have purchased the Israeli company for two main reasons. The first being that Onavo would allow Facebook to have technology that has been thoroughly tested at scale and that is already adept at measuring and analyzing who is using various mobile services as well as how to more closely monitor them and extract meaningful data. This data can then be repurposed for a variety of functions from improving the users experience to improving the performance and reach of advertisements, one of Facebook's biggest money makers. [9]

The second reason relates to Facebook's ambitious Internet.org project which would bring free internet to third world countries. A Facebook spokesperson was quoted saying ‘‘we expect Onavo’s data compression technology to play a central role in our mission to connect more people to the Internet, and their analytic tools will help us provide better, more efficient mobile products.’’[10]

Ethical Issues

Internet.Org Ad

No one batted an eye when Facebook initially purchased Onavo, in early 2018 controversy began to stir around Facebook pushing Onavos VPN service as their official Facebook-recommended VPN.

Data Privacy

A virtual private network, VPN, acts like a private network among public data networks and allows users to send and receive data along this network as if they are navigating through a private network. Data search and navigation through a VPN increases security and privacy measures for users because the network is secure. Onavo platform claims to offer a more secure network for users to browse on, however, recent privacy concerns arose when basic privacy measures were not met. The VPN, Onavo Protect, allows iOs Facebook users to browse through the private network. After Facebook's acquisition of Onavo, the data transferred on the VPN is accessible to both Facebook and Onavo.[11] Users quickly discovered that Onavo would be sharing user data with Facebook. This is a privacy flaw because users might use the private network to ensure their information is not accessible to others.This user data included what a user does online, the apps they owned and their usage, as well as data consumption and other metrics. Users were able to determine the extent of this through Onavos privacy policy which detailed what they would be collecting. [12]

Not only is this a violation of user privacy, it gives Facebook an unfair advantage over their competitors. The data collected through Onavo allows Facebook to observe how often a user uses their app versus other apps. Due to Onavos invasive nature, it also allows them to collect data on how people use their competitors apps. [13] This enables Facebook to have a quick and accurate insight into how the most popular apps are being used, which they then use to determine what features to implement. This can be seen most recently with Facebook's introduction of stories, a blatant copy of one of Snapchats defining features. [14]

In short, Onavo routes all of their users' data through Facebook, allowing them to observe and collect anything they want. In its current form, Onavo functions as an anti-VPN.

Future Implications

Facebook intends for Onavo to be an integral part of their Internet.Org initiative. When Onavo was first sold to Facebook, Guy Rosten was quoted saying that ‘‘we’re excited to join their team and hope to play a critical role in reaching one of Internet.org’s most significant goals — using data more efficiently, so that more people around the world can connect and share.’’ [15]

On the surface, Internet.org appears to be an altruistic non-profit that strives to bring free mobile internet to developing nations. In reality, they are a business focused development venture inside of Facebook that is solely aimed at increasing revenue and building the user base. Internet.org also allows Facebook to control what sites users can and cannot see, creating an echo chamber where they control the conversation. [16]


  1. Onavo Overview.
  2. Meet the Israelis trying to bring the entire world online.
  3. Roi Tiger Has Salvation for Data Hogs.
  4. Facebook acquires Israeli app maker Onavo, and a Tel Aviv office.
  5. Meet the Israelis trying to bring the entire world online.
  6. Facebook acquires Israeli app maker Onavo, and a Tel Aviv office.
  7. Analyze This: Facebook Acquires Mobile Analytics Startup Onavo For Up To $200M.
  8. Analyze This: Facebook Acquires Mobile Analytics Startup Onavo For Up To $200M.
  9. Facebook Buys Mobile Data Analytics Company Onavo, Reportedly For Up To $200M... And (Finally?) Gets Its Office In Israel
  10. Facebook Buys Israeli Maker of Data Compression Software for Mobile Web Effort.
  11. Privacy advocates are in a spin over Facebook’s Onavo Protect VPN tracking your data - but what did they expect? http://www.alphr.com/facebook/1008483/facebook-VPN-Onavo-Protect
  12. Facebook's Onavo Protect VPN is Designed to Invade Your Privacy
  13. Facebook's Onavo Gives Social-Media Firm Inside Peek at Rivals' Users.
  14. Facebook's Onavo Protect VPN is Designed to Invade Your Privacy
  15. Facebook Buys Israeli Maker of Data Compression Software for Mobile Web Effort.
  16. The surprising truth about Facebook's Internet.org.