Facebook's Onavo Protect VPN app is no longer available in the App Store. Apple did not change the app, but it would probably have done if Facebook refused to withdraw it voluntarily.
Various reports over the years showed that Onavo is a very scary type of VPN service, the kind that allows Facebook to spy on users and even make business decisions. The Monster WhatsApp purchase is apparently a result of Onavo's ability to collect data about the use of competing apps and services.
Apple said that Onavo violated its data collection, a person familiar with the case told The Wall Street Journal :
Earlier this month, Apple officials informed Facebook that the app violated new rules outlined in June to limit data acquisition by app developers, said the person familiar with the situation. Apple informed Facebook that Onavo also violated 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 advertise, adds the person.
This sounds very familiar. Has not Cambridge Analytica used the data that was harvested by an app on Facebook in ways that go beyond what's relevant to the app? Yes, they did, and Facebook did not like it too much. In fact, on Wednesday Facebook announced that it banned another app that has abused its data collection practices, affecting some four million Facebook users.
To return to Onavo, Journal states that Apple and Facebook met to discuss the issues last week, and it was when Apple suggested that Facebook voluntarily remove the app. Facebook was agreed and therefore Onavo is no longer available in the App Store.
If you have it installed on iPhone or iPad, you should remove it as soon as possible. It still works, but it will not receive any updates in the future. But you can find many VPN alternatives that are less creepy than Facebook.
Facebook obviously says that Onavo users already know that their data is collected and used. This is exactly the answer you expect from any technology company that collects data when it faces a privacy scandal.
"We've always been ready when people download Onavo about the information collected and how it is used," said a spokesperson from Facebook. "As a developer on Apple's platform, we follow the rules they've put in place."