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Facebook Pulls Data-Collecting Onavo VPN App from App Store Over Privacy Concerns

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Facebook has removed its Onavo data security app from the App Store after Apple reportedly asked the social media giant to voluntarily withdraw the software.

Facebook’s Onavo Project, the name given to its VPN efforts, was pulled from the iOS App Store as it breached Apple’s policies on how much data the app collects and why it does so, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was tipped off by an inside source.

Apple officials told Facebook last week that Onavo violated the company’s policies on data collection by developers and suggested Facebook voluntary remove the app. The app, which bills itself as a way to “keep you and your data safe,” had been available for free download from the App Store for years.

The app, which Facebook acquired with its 2013 purchase of Israeli-based mobile analytics startup Onavo, provides users with a VPN, or virtual private network, to help them stay secure online and keep their browser history from malicious websites and bad actors. But when you download Onavo, you give the app permission to share data about what you do on your phone with Facebook.

In the app’s “how it works” section, it reads: “Onavo uses a VPN to establish a secure connection to direct all of your network communications through Onavo’s servers. As part of this process, Onavo collects your mobile data traffic. 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.”

The problem with this is that Facebook can reportedly track your activity across apps if you are using Onavo. For example, Facebook can monitor user interest in apps that are new to the market, or its biggest rivals.

If users have downloaded the app, it will continue working, but it is no longer available on the App Store.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “The two sides discussed the issue in meetings last week, at least one of which took place at Apple’s headquarters. On Thursday, Apple officials suggested that Facebook voluntarily take down the Onavo app and Facebook agreed, said the person, who described the discussions as cordial.”

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