Apple busts Facebook for distributing data-sucking app

Facebook pays teenagers £15 to access all their messages, apps and searches

Facebook in trouble after 'paying teens to install spy app on their phones'

Facebook has been paying people to install an app that allows the tech giant to collect data on how they use their smartphones. This has been going on since 2016.

The news led to increased political scrutiny of Facebook's business model - in particular its use of target advertising, which entails the optimization of ads based on a user's interests and clicking habits.

The spokesperson also made it clear that the program was not in violation of any of Apple's App Store policies, though there is evidence pointing to the actions being contradictory to Apple's Enterprise Certificate Policy.

The TechCrunch pieces argues that Google is more straightforward here, compared to Facebook, in explaining how the program works and what data is collected, while also pointing out that it's still somewhat dicey for this to exist at all.

In response, Apple cut off Facebook's ability to offer the tool and test early, unreleased versions of its consumer-facing apps, an unprecedented move against one of its Silicon Valley peers that quickly revived criticism - including in Congress - that Facebook has failed to protect its users' privacy.

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Facebook denied the research app was built to replace Onavo. This time, Facebook was caught running a shady "research" program that paid teenagers and adults to install a VPN monitor on their phones, piping all their browsing data back to Facebook for analysis. Finally, less than 5% of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens.

The enterprise cert allows Facebook to sign iOS applications so they can be installed for internal use only, without having to go through the official App Store.

"We can't aspire for good press while continuing to not play by the rules", another employee wrote in an internal discussion on the company's Workplace app.

"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".

Like Facebook, Google is using enterprise certificates to distribute Screenwise Meter on iOS devices, as TechCrunch reports.

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But Strafach, who dismantled the Facebook Research app on TechCrunch's behalf, told the AP that it was mostly Onavo repackaged and rebranded, as the two apps shared about 98 percent of their code.

By installing the software, you're giving our client permission to collect data from your phone that will help them understand how you browse the internet, and how you use the features in the apps you've installed.

"We don't share this information with others and people can stop participating at any time", the spokesperson added.

It's not clear whether Apple will do the same to Google.

It's yet unknown if there's a specific type of data that Facebook was looking for. As TechCrunch reports, the company's forays into data-monitoring give the company insights into competitors such as TikTok and Snapchat. Another part of the research asked users, who were signed up through beta testing services BetaBound, uTest, and Applause, to send in screenshots of their Amazon order histories.

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