Facebook removes Onavo security app for violating user privacy

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

Facebook has removed its Onavo Protect security app from Apple’s App Store as the program has reportedly violated the smartphone maker’s privacy rules against the collection of user data.

The social media network titan removed the Onavo app from the App Store on Wednesday, however it remains available in the Google Play store.

Created by an Israeli startup Facebook, the app allows users to connect to a virtual private network, which keeps your browsing identity anonymous – a smart practice on free, public W-Fi – by routing you through a third-party server.

Notably, Onavo Protect also collects data on websites and apps, a very sensitive issue for consumers and online players as Facebook continues to recover from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which 87 million Facebook users had personal data unknowingly sold to a political targeting firm.

“We’ve always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used,” Facebook said in a statement. “As a developer on Apple’s platform we follow the rules they’ve put in place.”

Some changes to Apple’s store guidelines, which it updated two months ago, toughened apps’ usage of user data beyond what is needed for the app itself.

“We work hard to protect user privacy and data security throughout the Apple ecosystem,” Apple said in a statement about the Onavo situation. “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.”

Data from Onavo’s app has helped Facebook identify potential new product areas. It was able to track user interest in Snapchat’s Stories feature before Facebook introduced its own Stories function on Instagram, which it also owns, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

Onavo data also supported Facebook’s 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp for $22 billion, the Journal said.