A Facebook security app has been removed from the iOS App Store after Apple found it to be in violation of its data collection policies.
The app, dubbed Onavo Protect, was marketed as a free virtual private network (VPN) to “keep you and your data safe.” But the Onavo app’s true purpose was actually to collect data on users including their general activity, as well as how they used third-party apps.
Whenever a user running Onavo opened up another app or a web page, that traffic would be redirected to a Facebook server. Facebook would then log the action, allowing it to aggregate the data and draw conclusions from it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has used data collected by Onavo Protect to “track rivals and scope out new product categories.”
In June, Apple informed Facebook that its app was in violation of new rules in its developer guidelines that limited app data collection. In addition, the app was found to violate the developer agreement that barred apps from using data in “ways that go beyond what is directly relevant to the app or to provide advertising.”
Apple and Facebook officials reportedly met last week to discuss Onavo Protect. Last Thursday, Apple urged Facebook to voluntarily remove the app. Today, the social media giant did.
Onavo Protect had been downloaded on over 33 million devices across the iOS and Android ecosystems as of earlier this year.
Facebook did let users know that it was collecting data in the app’s description. It even noted that it would use this information to “improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.”
But that tidbit was buried deep down at the bottom of said description. And even then, Apple determined that Onavo’s data collection policies went far beyond what it allows per its developer guidelines and agreements.
“We work hard to protect user privacy and data security throughout the Apple ecosystem,” the Cupertino tech giant wrote in a statement. “With the latest update to our guidelines, we made it explicitly clear that apps should not collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing and must make it clear what user data will be collected and how it will be used.”
What Do I Do Now?
As of the writing of this article, the Onavo Protect app is no longer available in the iOS App Store. Users who have downloaded it previously should still be able to use it, but the app will no longer be updated.
Of course, if you’re concerned about Facebook having access to the apps and web pages you use, it might be smart to go ahead and delete it off of your iOS device.
A reputable VPN will encrypt your internet traffic to help thwart data theft and more. Here are a few of the most popular VPNs.