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Are the Updated App Store Review Guidelines Aimed at Facebook?

data privacy

mark zuckerberg tim cook

I don’t normally like when two people have public beefs.  The beef can escalate quite quickly, thanks to social media, but where does that get them?  A ton of people get involved, and it ends up escalating, for no good reason.  But I do have to say that I’m enjoying the Facebook/Apple beef that’s been brewing off and on for a while now.  The reason?  It’s a slow boil if you will.  I’m not trying to make all these food analogies, but that’s how it goes some days.  If you don’t remember, Tim Cook threw shade at Mark Zuckerberg for his data privacy policies.  He basically called Zuckerberg out for the practices, which Zuckerberg didn’t like.

As I said, the reason I like this particular beef is because it’s not overt.  I mean, sure, what is being said is direct, but it’s not putting the other person on blast like some beefs do.  As a result of the way that Zuckerberg is running his business, Apple has decided to amend their privacy guidelines.  More specifically, they are going to restrict apps that collect data on users’ friends, but only if they’re connected to the address book of an iPhone user.

onavo protect

Like I said, this does seem like they’re calling out Facebook, but they might also be targeting Facebook’s Onavo Protect VPN service.  If you don’t remember, the VPN service poses as a way to grant users anonymity from service providers and websites.  But it doesn’t quite work that way. The Onavo Protect VPN service is designed to grab a ton of data on device usage habits if you enable it to do so.  We posted about this on Saintel Daily, as this was something we thought you should know about.  It’s all about knowing where your data is going, or how it’s being tracked.  That’s not to say that all Facebook products do this, but I think it’s something that readers need to know about.

Bloomberg reported on this crackdown on Tuesday, but they published another article suggesting what I’ve been alluding to in this article – Apple might be giving the middle finger to Onavo. As reported in Bloomberg:

The iPhone maker’s updated App Store Review Guidelines ban applications that “collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing.” This could give Apple grounds to remove the Onavo app, although the software is still available despite the rules kicking in last week. Apple’s new guidelines “sound like they’re almost written in response to what Onavo and others have been doing,” said Will Strafach, a researcher who has studied Onavo Protect and focuses on the security of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

onavo protect

The interesting thing is that Apple already uses a technique, which is called sandboxing.  The goal is to prevent apps from harvesting data from other apps – via the device.  The problem is Onavo relies on analyzing mobile data traffic.  It’s this practice that Apple is trying to put a stop through their privacy guideline update.   As of last night, Onavo Protect is still listed on the App Store.  If it does disappear, then it could be a sign that Apple/Facebook beef is alive and well.  In order to get around this, Facebook could just change the data-collection practices for iOS, and then this wouldn’t be such a big deal.  I think there’s more to come on this one, and we’re just seeing the tip of the ice burg.

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