Facebook Privacy Breach. Again.
Facebook was in the news again for a data privacy breach. The company ran a programme wherein they were paying adults and teens $20 per month to allow the company to track their phones including browsing history, physical location and private messages. The scheme, Facebook said, was intended to improve its products.
The news did not go down well with Apple and they blocked Facebook from installing its internal apps on iPhones.
What Facebook had to say About the Controversy
A Facebook spokesperson said "It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear onboarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 per cent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms."
How Facebook Abused Apple’s Enterprise Tool
The Facebook Research App targeted users as young as 13 years old. Facebook likes to know what its users are doing outside Facebook as they are heavily reliant on ad networks and other companies interested in the users’ data.
Facebook did not distribute this app the usual way through Apple’s App Store. Apple grants a special certificate allowing distribution of apps outside of Apple’s App Store. The primary purpose of this process is for testing future apps and corporate-access apps.
According to Apple rules these certificates are meant strictly for internal use within the company. Facebook majorly sidestepped this rule and used the certificate to install their Facebook Research app on volunteer’s phones.
Apple and Facebook Lock Horns Again
Because of this violation, Apple revoked the certificate that makes these internal apps work.
Facebook has since shut down Facebook Research on iOS, but it still has a similar app on Android.
By disabling the companies’ internal apps, Apple sent a direct message that this behaviour was unacceptable.
The most important part of this story may be that Facebook appears to have pissed off Apple again, but a full Facebook ban will not happen as Apple users would eventually suffer in such a scenario.