Facebook is at the center of another privacy scandal – this time not only has angered users. It also angered Apple.
A short version: Apple says Facebook broke the deal it made with Apple, announcing an iPhone research application that allowed the social giant to collect personal information for those users, TechCrunch reported on Tuesday. The app allowed Facebook to track the history of application users, their personal messages and their location data. Facebook's research efforts reportedly target users at the age of 13.
Since last summer, applications that collect such data are against Apple's privacy policies. That means Facebook can not make this research app available through the App Store, which would need approval from Apple.
Instead, Facebook obviously used Apple's Developer Program, which allows Apple partners, like Facebook, to test and distribute applications specifically for their employees. In those cases, employees may use third-party services to download a beta version of applications that are not available to the general public.
Apple does not review and approve such applications as it does for the App Store, as they only need to be downloaded by employees working for the creator of the application.
Facebook, however, has used this program to pay unemployed as much as $ 20 a month to download the research application without Apple's knowledge.
Apple's reply, through a PR representative this morning: "We have designed our Enterprise Programmer Program for the internal distribution of applications within an organization. Facebook uses its membership to distribute a data collection application for consumers, which is clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer who uses their certificates to distribute applications to consumers will revoke the certificates, which is what we did in this case to protect our users GES and their data. "
Translation: Apple will no longer allow Facebook to distribute the application – a fact that Apple probably posted on Facebook Tuesday night. The Apple statement also mentions that Facebook's "certificates" – the plural – have been recalled. This means that Facebook can not distribute other employee applications through this programmer program right now, not just for the research application.
Before Apple's statement, but after telling the story of TechCrunch, Facebook has already said it is finishing its research program. But it is pushed to the idea that it has done something wrong in collecting user data. Facebook says the program has been in progress since 2016, which could be proof that the company is not trying to win the new Apple policy. Facebook, however, did not comment on whether it violated Apple's policies by distributing the application through the Enterprise Programmer Program.
Here is a statement on Facebook:
Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite the early reports, there was nothing "secret" about this; it was literally called Facebook Research Application. It was not "spying", because all the people who applied to participate, went through a clear boarding process, seeking permission and being paid for participation. Finally, less than 5 percent of people who chose to participate in this market research program were teenagers. All with signed family consent.
The most important part of this story may be that Facebook seems to have angered Apple, a company it relied on to deliver all of its applications to iPhone users around the world. It is unlikely that Apple will withdraw Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp from the App Store, but will tell if Apple is trying to punish Facebook in some other way.
The two companies already have disputes, and this will not help.
The story also shows how important Facebook is to collect data about other applications people use on their phones. It's a big competitive advantage, and the collection of such data is not foreign to Facebook. The company actually collected similar user data through a special Facebook owner called Onavo Protect, which was just removed from the App Store in August for violating Apple instructions. (It's still available for Android users.)
Onavo is a virtual private network, which means that the users downloading it agree to streamline their Internet traffic through a Facebook-owned server. Facebook, in turn, helps people track how much data they use and warn users about problems, such as if their "internet connection is not secure".
But Facebook's true value on Facebook is that it allows the company to collect data from people's behavior from people – such as competitive data such as the applications they use. The Onavo data helped Facebook execs learn that Snapchat user growth was slowing down after copying Snapchat's popular Story Product, according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook also used Onavo to track WhatsApp's growing user bases before buying the $ 19 billion messaging platform in 2014, BuzzFeed discloses.
In other words: There are many reasons why Facebook wants to know which applications people use, which explains why it went to such lengths to get familiar with the Apple Store's App Store guidelines.
It's unclear whether actual data collection on Facebook through this research application poses a risk to the company. Facebook he did paying users to use the application. But Facebook is also under investigation by the FTC, which reviews data protection practices. Everything that feels fish is likely to attract the attention of regulators.