Apple Inc said on Wednesday it had banned Facebook Inc from a program created to let businesses control iPhones used by their employees, saying the social networking company had improperly used it to track the web-browsing habits of teenagers. This has been going on since 2016. When they did, all of their internet data, however they connected and whatever app they were using, was funnelled through the company's servers, allowing it to keep track of their activities on other services.
Past year in August, Apple forced Facebook to remove its Onavo VPN app from the App Store as it was silently collecting user information and data on the pretext of being a VPN app. Apple has since (at least temporarily) revoked Facebook's ability to use these developer apps on its iPhones at all. Following TechCrunch's report, Senator Mark Warner sent a stern letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg with a list of questions about the company's data gathering practices, and Senator Ed Markey vowed to reintroduce legislation to make it illegal for companies to pay children to hand over their data.
It said the software tracked the apps installed on a device, how and when they were used, and the web browsing history of those who took part.
In this case, Facebook circumvented TestFlight, instead directing participants to download the Facebook Research app from one of its sites.
Right after the report broke about this new application, Facebook has said that it will shut down the Facebook Research application.
In a lengthy report published yesterday, TechCrunch showed how Facebook used its privileged access as a developer, along with third-party research firms, to recruit users for a research program.
The company admitted that teens had participated in the program but clarified that "less than 5 percent" of the people involved were in their teens.
It's very likely that many users of the app don't understand fully the permissions they gave Facebook.
As per Apple's guidelines, developers can only use this certification for internal testing of corporate apps so Facebook is clearly not adhering to that rule here.
Facebook has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation's request for comment about Apple's decision. Apple allows companies to distribute corporate apps through private links using the App Store. 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.
The program functioned on iOS and Android.
Last year, Facebook yanked a data-security app called Onavo from the app store after Apple ruled the app violated its data collection policies. Due to this move, thousands of Facebook's employees are now unable to access their internal iOS apps.
In a statement, Facebook hit back at the reporting.
"During the installation process of the app, Facebook asks users to install an Enterprise Developer Certification and VPN and then "trust" Facebook with root access to the data their phone transmits".
The latest privacy-related issue at Facebook comes on the same day the company will report its quarterly earnings.
It remains to be seen how long the Facebook Research app will remain available to Android users.