Facebook removes invasive Onavo VPN app at Apple’s request

Facebook has voluntarily removed its Onavo VPN app from the App Store following Apple’s ruling that it violates data collection policies for iOS apps, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple officials notified Facebook earlier this month that the app, which allows users to route their traffic through a Facebook-controlled Virtual Private Network, violated new App Store Review Guidelines established earlier this year to limit what data app developers could collect. Specifically, the Onavo VPN app, which like most VPNs is promoted as a way for users to keep their data and identity safe online, also allowed Facebook to collect and analyze data on users’ activities on the internet at large, even when they weren’t actively using Facebook.

Although Facebook made it clear in Onavo’s terms of service how this data was being used, Apple noted that it still runs afoul of the company’s new policies, specifically Section 5.1.1, which prohibits developers from collecting or using data for purposes that are beyond the scope of the app itself. According to sources speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Apple and Facebook met last week to discuss the issue, with Apple officials suggesting on Thursday that Facebook voluntarily remove the Onavo app, which the company agreed to. The meetings were described by sources as “cordial.” Like most discontinued apps, the Onavo VPN app will still be available for users who have already downloaded it, but Facebook will no longer be able to push out updates. The removal also only affects iOS; the Android version will continue to be available. In a statement shared by Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch, Apple added that “We work hard to protect user privacy and data security throughout the Apple ecosystem. 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.”

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