Apple asked Facebook to delete its Onavo Protect VPN app from the App Store after ruling the service went against its data collection policies.
The app did not just provide users with a private server to browse the web, and alerts when potentially harmful websites were visited, but it also helped the tech giant keep tabs on how consumers used their phones outside of Facebook’s own apps, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
In fact, the app’s data on user behaviour is reportedly the reason Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 and upped efforts around live video.
A source told the publication the app went against new rules Apple set in June to limit data collection by developers, along with directives stating apps should only use data in a way which is directly relevant to their purpose.
In a statement to CNBC, Apple said: “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.”
A Facebook representative told WSJ the company had always made it clear what information Onavo Protect gathered and how it was used. The company took the same stance earlier this year when responding to queries from US politicians about how it uses data collected from the app.
“As a developer on Apple’s platform we follow the rules they’ve put in place,” the representative added.
Users who have already downloaded the app to an iOS device can continue to use it and the service remains available for Android devices. However, Facebook can no longer update Onavo Protect, which it acquired in 2013.
Facebook has spent much of 2018 mired in scandals around privacy and security, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In May thousands of apps using Facebook data were investigated and more than 400 have now been suspended as part of the social media giant’s audit for data misuse. In a recent blog, Facebook said the suspensions were due “to concerns around the developers who built them or how the information people chose to share with the app may have been used — which we are now investigating in much greater depth.”
It highlighted an app called myPersonality, which it said it suspended after the developer failed to agree to its audit request. Facebook argued it was “clear that they shared information with researchers as well as companies with only limited protections in place.”
Facebook plans to notify the roughly 4 million people who shared their information with myPersonality.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back