Apple escalates war against Facebook and its privacy practices

01 February, 2019, 03:00 | Author: Leah Owens
  • A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this

In one major data breach disclosed past year, Cambridge Analytica obtained information on millions of Facebook users through a third-party app. Google and Facebook had faced criticism from privacy experts for distributing their research apps through a programme iPhone maker Apple had created for companies to distribute apps to employees.

For underage users, Applause requires parental permission, and Facebook is mentioned in the consent agreement. And as Apple has revoked Facebook's certificates, reportedly leaving Facebook's own employees without access to internal Facebook mobile apps, does this mean Google will be punished as well?

Yesterday, TechCrunch first reported that Facebook is now paying users in the U.S. for sharing their phone and web activity for research purposes.

Hours after Apple revoked Facebook's iOS developer certificate for using an app that closely tracked some users' data, a report from TechCrunch said Wednesday that Google also has an app that closely monitors traffic and data on smartphones. "And if it truly wanted to punish Google like it did Facebook, it could invalidate the certifications for all of Google's legitimate apps that run using the same certificate". Facebook is able to access this data after users install a "Facebook Research" VPN app.

"We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for the internal distribution of apps within an organization", said Apple in a statement. "We don't share this information with others and people can stop participating at any time", clarified the spokesperson of Facebook in an email to CNBC.

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As news of the activity came to light, Facebook has announced that the program (sometimes referred to as Project Atlas) is being terminated on iOS, but it seems that it will be continuing on Android.

When Facebook's Onavo Protect VPN was forced off the App Store by Apple's new requirement that it needed to have a privacy policy, the social media platform still wanted to collect massive amounts of sensitive data. Information leaking out of Facebook paints an image of a company in turmoil as apps the employees rely on have just stopped working.

Before using Facebook Research, the company used the Onavo Protect application, which offers a VPN service, which however was banned from the apps store of iOS, but still remains available on the Android Play Store. I don't understand what they thought they were doing, or how they thought they could get away with this,"Will Strafach, a mobile-security researcher who studied the app for TechCrunch, told NPR".

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently penned a 1,000 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal jumping to the defense of his company's business practices. "This is yet another astonishing example of Facebook's complete disregard for data privacy and eagerness to engage in anti-competitive behavior".

The Screenwise Meter app, launched in 2012, had a similar installation process to the Facebook Research app that's now been shut down. To allow full access to a device, Facebook asks users to download the Research app from r.facebook-program.com, install an Enterprise Developer Certificate, and agree to trust the app with root access.

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