Apple forces Facebook VPN out of App Store for stealing user data


Facebook Onavo Protect iOS
Onavo Protect doesn't comply with App Store rules.
Photo: Facebook

Facebook has removed its Onavo Protect app from the App Store after reportedly violating Apple’s data-collection policies.

The VPN service was being used to gather information about how people use their devices outside of Facebook. Apple officials informed Facebook that Onavo violated new rules introduced in June, which are designed to limit data collection by app developers.

Onavo Protect, which was a free download on iOS, allowed users to direct their network traffic through a private server maintained by Facebook. It promised to “keep you and your data safe,” but many users were not aware that Facebook also used it to collect user information.

Onavo gave the social network an opportunity to keep tabs on browsing habits outside of Facebook. That data could then be used to create more detailed advertising profiles and contact databases, to track rivals, and to identify new product categories.

But that won’t be happening on iOS anymore.

Onavo Protect no longer available on iOS

Facebook has now pulled Onavo Protect from the App Store.

“Apple informed Facebook that Onavo also violated a part of its developer agreement that prevents apps from using data in ways that go beyond what is directly relevant to the app or to provide advertising,” reports The Wall Street Journal, citing a source familiar with the matter.

It is believed that Apple and Facebook discussed the issue in meetings last week — at least one of which took place at Apple Park. Facebook later decided to voluntarily pull Onavo Protect for iOS, rather than make changes to comply with Apple’s latest guidelines.

Onavo will continue to be available on Android, and those who already have it installed on their iPhone or iPad can continue to use it. However, Facebook won’t be able to roll out new updates for iOS users.

Apple working to protect user privacy

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

“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.”

Apple has recently set about removing apps that do not comply with its updated policy. Those who do not want Facebook to keep track of their browsing habits should avoid using Onavo altogether.


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