Facebook pulls data security app after Apple warns of privacy concerns

Facebook pulls data security app after Apple warns of privacy concerns
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Facebook has removed a data-security app from Apple’s app store after the iPhone maker warned that it violated its privacy policies.

The free app, Onavo Protect, is a virtual private network (VPN) that gives users the ability to channel their data through a private server operated by Facebook. Onavo, which has been available in the app store for years, touts itself as a way to “keep you and your data safe.” Its removal is part of a new privacy push from Apple.

Apple confirmed that the app had been removed from the store on Wednesday.

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"We work hard to protect user privacy and data security throughout the Apple ecosystem," a spokesman said in a statement. "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."

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reported last year that Facebook was using the data collected by Onavo to study other popular apps and determine their strategy for acquiring startups.

After it purchased Tel Aviv-based Onavo in 2013, Facebook used the information it collected to inform its decision to buy WhatsApp in 2014.

According to the Journal’s latest story, published Wednesday night, Apple warned Facebook earlier this year that Onavo violated its new privacy policies, which were launched in June as part of an effort to crack down on data collection.

 “We've always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "As a developer on Apple's platform we follow the rules they've put in place.”

--Updated at 1:12 p.m.