Here is Why Facebook’s Internet.org is Not as Great as it Sounds

Claiming to be a purely philanthropic venture, Zuckerberg’s Internet.Org service might just be the glittering gold from the metaphor. Zuckerberg launched Internet.org as a way to provide “free” internet services to people who cannot afford them. While this might seem like a laudable effort, privacy activists think otherwise.

How Does Internet.org Work?

The way that Internet.Org works is that it provides subscribers partner mobile networks to have access to a limited number of online service without any charges for the data consumed.

It does not provide access to everything on the web but only a few select websites. These websites, which obviously include Facebook, are aimed at providing internet access to people in an attempt to become stepping stones to accessing a larger part of the internet.

zuckerberg graffiti

Everyone can submit a website to be included on Internet.org but they have to follow the guidelines to be approved. These guidelines are basically about the size of the content, the ability for the websites to work on not only modern smartphones but also low budget feature phones and many others.

Sites have to be approved before they can be accessible and have to follow a set of guidlines

Once approved, they will be available to users on Internet.org. However, before users can access the website, it will pass through Internet.org’s proxy servers which will strip the content of all JavaScript, large file sizes, videos, VoIP calls or Flash and Java applets. This is done to ensure that the bandwidth used is as small as possible while also providing users with optimum access.

So, What’s Wrong With Internet.org?

Huge Privacy Issues

One would think that Facebook would have learned some lessons from previous privacy fiascos but they don’t really seem to care. As mentioned above, Internet.org routes all traffic through its own proxy server. This structure denies users the ability to use a secure HTTPS connection. While most smartphones with Android have the ability to encrypt data being transmitted over the internet, the cheaper feature phones do not.

Internet.org routes all traffic through proxy servers, which can allow it unlimited access to all traffic in regions where it is used. Considering Facebook’s track record, that’s worrying.

Users who access websites from these phones will not be able to use HTTPS or any other form of encryption thus making their data open to man-in-the-middle attacks and even allow Facebook to have complete unrestricted access to users’ data. This is quite a huge privacy concern.

facebook internet org letter

67 digital rights groups have signed a letter citing grave privacy concerns about Internet.org

It’s a Walled Garden

With Facebook controlling which websites will be allowed through Internet.org, it has essentially positioned itself as the gatekeeper to the internet accessibility provided to its users. There have been many instances where Facebook gave in to the demands of governments of various countries and removed Facebook pages belonging to activists, journalist and even bloggers.

Providing internet to the developing world is important but Facebook as a gatekeeper is not acceptable

The Pakistani government is especially skilled at getting Facebook to comply to demands of removing whatever pages they don’t like for no rhyme or reason except their twisted logic.

When such an organization gets the authority to control which part of the internet will or will not be accessible to users, it is a big problem. The one thing that makes the internet such a powerful force is its freedom; if Facebook is allowed to take that away, “free internet” could prove to cost us much more than mere paper notes.


  • abbasi506

    Does not seem as good as was expected

  • Zawyar Ur Rehman

    So, this turns out to be not a completely free internet solution…

  • Taha Najam

    Well no one is forcing you to use it. Stop crying wolf.

  • Hasnain Razwi

    Great article. I honestly had not considered this angle. Question for the author, where is Facebook targeting provision of this service? What are the demographics of the people who’s data Facebook will be capturing?

    • R. Khan

      They intend to provide the service to developing countries. It has already launched in Indonesia, India, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania etc. The Internet.org app is available on Android smartphones running Android 2.3 and above.

      • Hasnain Razwi

        Living in Melbourne, Australia I see their internet.org ads popping up everywehere. Bus stops, Train Stations… and they’re great Ads. Single picture with an engaging tag line. like this one:
        https://connect.internet.org/story/neesha
        Before I read your article I completely wasn’t aware of the other side of this story so thanks for sharing it.

  • Ahsan

    Net Neutrality Seriously! They are just providing free basic sites to people! What you are saying is that if by providing free water to people you are doing unfair to water companies like NESTLE, MURREE BREWERY!!

    On the other hand, PTCL should care about net neutrality! They are block sites without any reason!

    The way I see it, its a nice step, everyone has the right to help the world in his own unique way!