Facebook Releases, Then Quickly Pulls, an App by Israeli Startup Onavo

Bought by Facebook in 2013, Onavo develops mobile apps that aim to protect users’ mobile information while also collecting user data and shipping it back to Facebook

CTech 16:0511.03.18

Last week, Facebook released, then pulled, an app called Bolt App Lock, developed by Tel Aviv-based startup Onavo Mobile Ltd. Released on March 5, the app was live until March 9, as first reported by TechCrunch.


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Founded in 2009 and bought by Facebook in 2013 for an undisclosed sum, Onavo develops mobile safety and analytics apps such as the Extend and Count apps, designed to help mobile phone users manage their mobile data more efficiently, and the Onavo Protect app, a VPN service offered on iOS devices and used to protect user data and store user information such as bank account information and passwords.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Getty Images Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Getty Images


The Android app Bolt App Lock was featured on the Google Play store as a security app that lets users add additional protection measures, such as PIN codes and fingerprint recognition, to apps that don’t offer built-in security. It is similar to Onavo’s Protect app.


In February, Facebook was criticized for using the Onavo Protect app to gather user data in a number of articles and blog posts.


The release of the Bolt App Lock app, which stated that it gathers mobile usage information and shares it with Facebook on its Google Play listing, caused a similar wave of criticism. A Gizmodo article on Friday called the new app “deceptive,” saying the app “siphons vast amounts of data from consumers’ cell phones and shoots it back to Facebook to do with whatever the hell it wants.”


Following the backlash, Facebook removed the Bolt App Lock app from the Google Play store. A Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that the app’s launch was part of a “brief test.”

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