Facebook has found itself at the receiving end of another privacy-related debacle, with its VPN app Onavo Protect this time found committing the crime. No wonder, Apple found issues with the app and has deemed it unfit to continue existing on the App Store citing the company’s strong commitment to user’s privacy and data security.
On the surface, the Onavo is supposed to give users a snapshot of the data they have consumed. At least, that is how the app started when launched by an Israeli start-up. Unfortunately, the app, post its takeover by Facebook in 2013 got transformed into a tool that would provide Facebook with a glimpse of how other apps fared on the user’s mobile device. Such data, in turn, will help Facebook fine-tune their strategy in dealing with the competition – read other social media apps such as Snapchat et all.
Apple meanwhile justified its move to ban Onavo saying the app does not comply with the new set of guidelines that has come into effect. And the new rules make it grossly unfair for any app to collect any sort of info about any other app that might be installed on the user’s device. The guideline holds true no matter what purpose the data is being collected for, be it for data analytics, advertising or whatever.
Facebook, however, claimed they have committed no wrong and that the app in question meets all App Store requirements put forward by Apple. The social media giant also said they have informed users of the sort of data they collect and to what use they are put to. In part, that is true as well, but it’s just that the disclaimer is hidden deep inside the app description where it did mention the app collects mobile data traffic but on the pretext of improving Facebook products and services.
However, Apple is believed to have saved Facebook from the ignominy of having the latter’s app booted from the App Store. Instead, the two companies are believed to have been into a discussion on this and at the end of which Facebook agreed the app would be removed. But that is not before the app has gone for more than 33 million downloads. Current users can continue using the app though that will be at their own risk while there won’t be any future updates for the app.
Curiously, the app continues to thrive on the Android Play Store, which means there still is a considerable stream of usage info that Facebook can draw upon.