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Facebook pulls the plug on Onavo

In the wake of widespread criticism regarding its data collection practices, Facebook is reportedly planning to delist its controversial Onavo application, after long-standing claims about the VPN tool’s usage by the company to secretly collect mobile-user data traffic.

After being pulled out from the Apple store last year for violations against its data collection policies, it is reported that Facebook has decided to remove its controversial Onavo application from the Google play store.

The move comes three weeks after a report published by TechCrunch alleged that the social media company paid users aged 13 to 35 monthly to sell their web and application usage data by installing an app called Facebook Research, which allegedly shared a similar code structure as that of Onavo.

Apple has since removed the Research app from the iOS platform and revoked Facebook’s developer certificate.

Facebook acquired the Onavo application in 2013 for an estimated $200 million and advertised it as a regular VPN tool for users to protect their web traffic from external sources. The application, however, has caused controversy in recent years due to claims that it secretly mined users’ mobile data traffic in order for Facebook to edge its competitors in identifying new mobile trends. It is reported that around 12 million users downloaded Onavo before it was taken down by Apple in August of last year.

A Facebook spokesperson is said to have confirmed the move, adding that they intend to shift the company’s focus towards “reward-based market research”. However, it is unknown if this indicates an absolute end towards Facebook’s data mining practices.
In line with Onavo’s removal from the Play Store, the recruitment of Android users for Facebook’s Research app is also set to cease.