Facebook's Onavo VPN app is no longer welcome in Apple's App Store.
Facebook removed the app from the App Store after Apple told the company that it violated its data collection policies, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Beyond breaching the rules against data collection, Onavo, which Facebook acquired in 2013, also violated the guidelines that limit an app from using data for reasons beyond those directly relevant to the app or for advertising purposes, the Journal reported.
Onavo's removal follows discussions earlier this month between the two companies over concerns that the app ran afoul of new App Store guidelines introduced by Apple in June. The guidelines include specific rules for data use and sharing, which is where Onavo apparently got into hot water. Apple suggested that Facebook voluntarily remove the app, to which the social network agreed, according to the Journal's source.
The incident marks the latest in a series of alarm bells centered around Facebook and user privacy. Exemplified by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social network has triggered complaints that it shares user data with advertisers and developers without regard to the privacy of its members. As one response, the company has tried to improve the tools it offers individuals to manage their privacy settings. But Facebook users still have to be on their guard.
Onavo was ostensibly created as a VPN app designed to give people a more secure way to surf the web. But the software had come under fire for monitoring user activity, specifically collecting data on which apps people use. In June, Facebook faced questions in Congress over Onavo, according to CNBC. The company told legislators that it doesn't connect data from Onavo to individual Facebook profiles but acknowledged that it does use such data to see what people do in other apps as a way to improve its own products.
Onavo's description details the purposes of the app.
"As part of providing these features, Onavo may collect your mobile data traffic," the description notes. "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."
Onavo is still available in Google Play for Android users.
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