Apple banned the Facebook security app that also reports back on which apps people are using

Apple banned the Facebook security app that also reports back on which apps people are using

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Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

  • Apple has banned a security app made by Facebook that monitored what apps users were using then sent the data to the social network.
  • Apple determined at Onavo Protect violated its new rules on data collection, and it has now been removed from the App Store.
  • It's still available on Google's Android, however.

Apple has determined that Onavo Protect, a Facebook-owned security app, is in violation of its rules, and asked the social network to take it down - which it did.

The news was first reported on Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, and a Facebook spokesperson confirmed its removal to Business Insider. It's still available from the Google Play store on Android.

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Onavo, an Israeli security firm acquired by Facebook in 2013, has long been the source of controversy.

Its flagship app, Onavo Protect, offers users a number of security features, including security alerts and access to a virtual private network (VPN). But it also monitors the apps that users use, reporting the data back to Facebook HQ - something the social network has used to identify competitors early and even prompt acquisitions.


According to the WSJ's report, Apple came to the conclusion that the app broke its new rules on data collection, and told Facebook as much earlier in August.

Apple did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, but a company spokesperson told CNBC:

"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."

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: "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."

According to previous reports from the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has used Onavo to do everything from monitoring usage of competing apps like Snapchat to surfacing up-and-coming apps like videochat app Houseparty, and then cloning its core features.


Critics have long held that Facebook doesn't do enough to advertise its ownership of Onavo - you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of its description in smartphone app stores to see that disclosure; something not every would-be user may do. Earlier this year, privacy advocates were upset when the core Facebook app suggested users download Onavo Protect, without disclosing that relationship. It's been called "vampiric" and "spyware" by pundits.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether the company will take action on Onavo of its own.

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