Facebook banned from using internal apps by Apple regarding data misuse

The ban comes after Facebook exploited a loophole to harvest data from teens and pay them for it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking
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Apple has officially revoked Facebook’s permission to use internal iOS apps for defying its privacy policies and exploiting a loophole to harvest data from users as young as 13 years.

Facebook has come under strict scrutiny following various scandals relating to users’ privacy since last year and the TechCrunch investigation, which revealed that Facebook has been paying teens in return for their data, has sent Facebook further down the hole it dug up.

The app in question is Facebook Research, which provides Facebook access to users’ entire phone and web history, including encrypted activity, private messages and emails. The app allows Facebook to collect data on private messages on social media apps, chats from instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information.

The Research app is aimed mainly at teenagers from the age of 13 years old to adults of 35 years old. In return for their consent and participation, users were promised up to $20 per month. Regarding minors, the consent of their parents was required but wasn’t extensive, which means teenagers could sign up and tap on ‘trust’ without knowing what it was all about.

Mark Zuckerberg during Congress hearing
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Apple said it has revoked Facebook’s Enterprise Developer Program, which is a system that allows developers to sidestep Apple’s app store and distribute their applications internally and privately, which is required for various purposes such as bug testing and beta testing of apps. EDC effectively requires use of Root Certificates but should not be used for apps that the general public are using.

Speaking to The Guardian, Apple said that, “We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using its membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of its agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

According to the same report published in The Guardian, the crackdown has caused chaos in Facebook’s offices. Apps that have been built using EDC are simply not launching or inoperable. Unreleased versions of internal apps and beta versions of apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Messenger have been rendered inoperable. The ban has also hit company transportation, according to Business Insider.

With a series of privacy related scandals last year and now this incident makes us question the company’s leadership and its instance on user privacy. With the company’s executives boasting that they deeply care about users’ privacy, can we really trust Facebook in the light of this incident? And just how much is Facebook hiding?

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