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These ad-blocking and VPN apps were owned by Sensor Tower, an analytics platform widely used by app developers and investors alike. According to the report, the apps installed a root certificate on the phone to monitor data traffic and other user information. The app then gathered and sent this personal information to Sensor Tower for analysis. Users were unaware their data was being collected or shared in this manner.
Sensor Tower reportedly owns more than 20 iOS and Android apps, including Adblock Focus and Luna VPN for iOS. After this privacy violation was revealed by Buzzfeed and reported to Apple, the Cupertino company removed Adblock Focus from the App Store. It also confirmed it is investigating Luna VPN for privacy violations.
In a statement shared with Buzzfeed, Sensor Tower mobile insights head Randy Nelson said the apps did not collect sensitive or personally identifiable information.
Nelson played down the violation by claiming the apps either were inactive or in the process of being sunsetted. Nelson also explained the sharing relationship between these apps, and Sensor Tower was not revealed for competitive reasons.