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Facebook’s VPN will be pulled from the App Store for privacy reasons

Facebook has agreed to voluntarily take down its Onavo Protect app from the iPhone App Store after a disagreement with Apple over how it was using user data, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The problem with the app from Israeli analytics company Onavo, which Facebook bought five years ago, is that it reportedly spies on how users use their phones when Facebook normally wouldn’t get any insights.

Related: What is a VPN?

In other words, it doesn’t matter if Facebook, Instagram or Messenger are closed or even uninstalled – Onavo Protect can provide information back to Facebook, which has apparently informed design and acquisition decisions in the past.

This puts Apple in a quandary, as the privacy rules it introduced back in June explicitly limit the use of data beyond apps’ core functions, as well as blocking the creation of databases with user information to sell to third parties.

Following discussions between the companies, the WSJ has learned, Facebook will voluntarily pull the app from the App Store – but users who already have it can continue to use it. Although an unfortunate side effect of this is that without an App Store presence, bug fixes and security loopholes can’t be fixed with patches.

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A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the way Onavo uses its data is clearly signposted: “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.”

For now, the Android version will live on, since the Google-owned platform has a different set of privacy policies.

Do you use Onavo Protect on iPhone? What do you make of this development? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter @TrustedReviews.

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