Facebook axes its Onavo VPN app over data collection

The decision reportedly stems from backlash over Facebook amassing information on people's phone usage.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
Smartphone FB

Facebook's Onavo VPN app is on its way out.

Towfiqu Photography / Getty Images

Facebook appears to have pulled its controversial Onavo mobile VPN app from the Google Play Store.

The app, called Onavo Protect, will immediately stop pulling user data for market research, TechCrunch reported Thursday, but will remain as an active VPN while users look for a replacement. The app will eventually shut down, according to the report.

Facebook  didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment, but a spokesperson told TechCrunch: "We are shifting our focus to reward-based market research which means we're going to end the Onavo program."

When CNET searched Google Play for the app Friday, it wasn't available.

In August, Onavo Protect was yanked from Apple's App Store for violating privacy guidelines. The app, which Facebook acquired in 2013, offers a virtual private network to help people safely send and receive data on their phones. But when the app was downloaded, users automatically gave the app permission to give Facebook data about their online activity. Facebook reportedly was able to track user activity across apps.

The decision to shut down Onavo Protect comes as the social media giant again faces scrutiny for collecting data on people's phone usage. Last month, it was revealed that Facebook had been paying people, including teens, $20 per month plus referral fees for their phone and web activity. Facebook got this data after users installed a "Facebook Research" VPN app on their iPhones. The app has been shut down for violating Apple's policies. 

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