Facebook’s Ovano VPN Now Banned From Apple App Store
It is fairly common knowledge for many tech-savvy people that the Apple App Store has strict app publishing policies compared to the Google Play Store, Windows Store and Amazon Store. There are certain app categories that are literally banned from being published, the likes of console emulator apps and cheating-related apps. Apple also removes apps from their store regularly, if they believed that the authors changed the functionality of the app or added a new feature that is contrary to their rules.
The latest victim of Apple’s uncompromising policy is Onavo VPN, a 2013 Facebook acquisition which cost the social media giant $131 million. Apple cited saying: “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.”
The offense was unfair data collection and not secret data collection, as Onavo has been very vocal about the data capture by just reading its description. Another paragraph from Onavo VPN’s description specifically stated: “Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.”
Facebook on their part accepted the verdict but strongly stressed that their apps and Onavo VPN is safe to use. “Earlier this month, Apple officials informed Facebook that the app violated new rules outlined in June designed to limit data collection by app developers, the person familiar with the situation said. 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,” explained by a Facebook representative
Apple fans have flocked to Reddit to support Apple’s action, claiming that Facebook and its subsidiaries are there to spy on their own users. Onavo VPN is also available for Android users and visiting its download page in Google Play, it said in the description: “Onavo may collect your mobile data traffic. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps, and data. Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.”
Onavo being absent in iOS stores now does not stop users that already downloaded the app before the takedown to continue using it, but since app updates use the iOS store infrastructure, the Onavo VPN app installed can no longer be updated.
Prior to the takedown, Ovano VPN app has a combined download of 33 million for both iOS and Android. Facebook has no plans of taking down the Android version of Onavo VPN from the Google Play Store, and they will continue fine-tuning the app with future updates.
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Kevin Jones, Ph.D., is a research associate and a Cyber Security Author with experience in Penetration Testing, Vulnerability Assessments, Monitoring solutions, Surveillance and Offensive technologies etc. Currently, he is a freelance writer on latest security news and other happenings. He has authored numerous articles and exploits which can be found on popular sites like hackercombat.com and others.