Facebook Shuts Down Data-Collection App Onavo

Onavo is being pulled from the Google Play store months after it was kicked off Apple’s App Store

Facebook is shutting down Onavo, a virtual private network (VPN) app the company used to collect data on the app usage of its users, the company confirmed to TheWrap on Friday.

“Market research helps companies build better products for people. We are shifting our focus to reward-based market research which means we’re going to end the Onavo program,” a Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap.

The decision comes months after the app was kicked off the App Store for violating Apple’s data collection rules.

Onavo, bought by Facebook in 2013, acted as a VPN, masking a user’s location to “keep you and your data safe.” More importantly for the social network, Onavo’s real value was in sharing data on the apps used by its users — allowing Facebook to spot trends and target companies to acquire. The app also told Facebook the websites its users visited and the devices they used, among other details.

“Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences,” Onavo’s app description said.

Facebook did not mention when Onavo will be officially shuttered. The app will “immediately cease pulling in data from users,” according to TechCrunch, the first outlet to report the story while continuing to operate as a VPN for its users in the short-term.

Onavo’s shutdown comes weeks after Facebook removed its Research App, which paid users — some as young as 13 —  $20 per month to collect a wide range of data, including web search history and social media messages.