Many people use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to protect their data and avoid tracking, but Facebook-owned VPN Onavo Protect was just removed from the Apple App Store for violating personal data collection rules. On its App Store listing, Onavo Protect says it "helps keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web", and protects your personal information, but ironically, Facebook was using the app to track and analyse customer usage data.
In June, Apple had revised its data collection guidelines, and the Onavo Protect app is in violation of rules about sharing customer data. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple informed Facebook about this issue earlier in August, and after meetings which took place last week, Facebook agreed to voluntarily take down the Onavo app.
Onavo isn't the only app that's been removed from the App Store though; Apple has removed apps sharing users' location data, and banned developers from creating and selling databases of user information.
WHAT IS A VPN?
In somewhat oversimplified terms, a VPN acts like a shell through which your data is passed on to the Internet Service Provider. Therefore, while other apps can track your activities while they're actively in use, a VPN is usually running in the background all the time, and can track a huge amount of user information.
This information can be analysed to understand how customers are using their devices, what apps they make use of, and much more.
On the app's description, there is a line which explains that Onavo analyses your use of websites, apps and data. It also says: "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."
However, Apple clearly did not find this enough, and removed the app. Onavo remains available for download on Google Play on Android.