Apple Clashes With Facebook Over Invasive Market Research App

Sheri Evans
January 31, 2019

The report claimed users aged between 13 and 35 were paid up to 20 dollars (£15) a month to install the Facebook Research app on iOS and Android devices. This has been going on since 2016.

Apple is ratcheting up a tug-of-war over privacy with Facebook.

It's still unclear whether Apple will revoke Google's enterprise certificates. Facebook was later forced to remove Onavo from Apple's App Store, due to violations with Apple's data collection policies.

In response to the report, Facebook suggested the programme had been misrepresented.

The report said the initial Onavo app was shuttered for violating Apple's privacy policy and that the newer version may also contravene Apple's terms.

That strategy didn't go over well with Apple, which pulled the plug on Facebook's access to the program Tuesday night.

Facebook defended its programme, saying it was doing not wrong and that only a small percentage of people was underage.

TechCrunch says Facebook wants to remain the dominant force in data harvesting and it's willing to pay serious cash to make it happen.

Facebook has quietly been running a "Facebook Research" VPN app for years that offered teens, including minors, up to $20 per month in exchange for access to all of their private data, including private messages, photos and videos, and even real-time location, according to a new investigation report by TechCrunch.

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Whether Facebook users who signed up for this program truly understood its implications is up for debate.

For underage users, Applause requires parental permission, and Facebook is mentioned in the consent agreement.

"We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for the internal distribution of apps within an organization".

This is the first time Apple has taken action against Facebook's privacy practices after bickering with the company about user privacy rights over the past year or so.

Onavo Protect was used by the company for the same goal but was removed from the iOS App Store in June 2018 when Apple implemented new rules that banned the collection of "information about which other apps are installed on a user's device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing". Last year, Facebook was hammered for failing to keep the personal information of its more than 2 billion users safe after news emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a United Kingdom consultancy, had acquired data without users' knowledge.

However, Facebook calls on iOS users to side-load the Facebook Research app by declaring the social network to be a trusted developer.

Apple's decision to revoke Facebook's Enterprise Certificate is "causing mayhem" for the social network's employees, according to TechCrunch, because they no longer have access a wide range of internal, employee-only apps, nor any apps for new products in development.

Facebook paid users as young as 13 to install an app which gave the company access to everything their phone sent or received over the internet.

This is far from the first time Apple and Facebook have. I asked FB what exactly that meant - signed form, scanned? - they said the vendors handled it. Earlier, this research study was available on Android and iOS devices. As noted by Strafach, Facebook's Research app appears to be a "poorly re-branded build of the banned Onavo app".

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