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Apple: Facebook's Onavo VPN Violates App Store Rules

Facebook Mobile Smartphone

Back in 2013, Facebook acquired Israeli startup Onavo and with it gained access to the company’s mobile analytics and data compression tech. Both were put to good use for Internet.org, but more recently Facebook launched the Onavo Protect security app for iOS.

As we noted back in February, Facebook promotes Onavo Protect as a way of keeping your data private while browsing the mobile web. The app does this using a VPN. However, Facebook also takes the opportunity to track users who use it and send information about other apps used and websites visited back to the mothership.

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Facebook admits Onavo collects mobile data traffic, but explains it away as helping to improve the service.

We weren’t happy with how Onavo operates and now Apple isn’t, either. As CNBC reports, Apple informed Facebook earlier this week that Onavo now violates the rules of the App Store due to the data collection it performs. Why didn’t it violate the rules before? Because Apple just updated its guidelines, which meant Onavo now crosses the line regarding what is acceptable.

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Apple apparently gave Facebook a choice: update the app to follow the new guidelines or have the app removed. Facebook decided to voluntarily remove Onavo Protect from the App Store rather than continue to offer its protection without the data collection. That says a lot, doesn’t it?

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

It’s unclear if Onavo will ever reappear on the App Store, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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