Apple Takes Away Key License From Facebook After Massive Policy Violation

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

"Despite early reports, there was nothing "secret" about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App", a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC in an emailed statement. The move comes after news broke that Facebook was using the program to distribute a questionable market research app to thousands of users. As per App Store guidelines, and as Mashable notes, "collecting information from other apps installed on a user's a device is something that is a clear no-no with Apple". Apple is not pleased that Facebook used this program to send powerful apps to users, and Facebook's decision to pull the research app isn't enough to satisfy Apple.

Facebook also released a statement objecting to TechCrunch's report, saying, "Key facts about this market research program are being ignored".

In a report on The Verge on Wednesday, January 30, Facebook said it would shut down the Facebook Research app on iOS, though the app will remain active on Android devices.

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.

If minors try to sign-up, they're asked to get their parents' permission with a form that reveal's Facebook's involvement and says "There are no known risks associated with the project, however you acknowledge that the inherent nature of the project involves the tracking of personal information via your child's use of apps".

Mashable has also reached out to Facebook for comment, and we will update this story when we hear back.

A researcher commissioned by TechCrunch to investigate the app branded Facebook Research as a "poorly re-branded build of the banned Onavo app", and with the installation of root certificates which Apple requires to be only be used by employees under its Developer Enterprise Program License Agreement, it will be interesting to see how Apple responds to these findings. By August, Apple decided Onavo Protect violated App Store rules and Facebook removed the app. In its app, Google invites users aged 18 and up (or 13 if part of a family group) to download the app by way of a special code and registration process using an Enterprise Certificate.

With its certificate revoked, Facebook employees are reporting that their legitimate internal apps, also signed by the cert, have stopped working.

Facebook is still permitted to distribute apps through Apple's app store, though such apps are reviewed by Apple ahead of time. The app will continue to run on Android. The Cupertino company deleted data-sniffing app Onavo after finding how it blatantly breached Apple's privacy policies. This may cover Facebook against legal repercussions but in reality, younger users may not understand what they are agreeing to. In this case, Apple determined that Facebook's app went against the rules.

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

While Facebook confirmed the existence of the program, it took issue with its representation.

In brief: Facebook has hit the headlines over yet another privacy-related controversy.

The project may have allowed Facebook to scoop up more data about younger users as it fends off a challenge from rival services like Snapchat, which has become more popular than Facebook among U.S. teens.



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