Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

Monitoring App Given to Minors

Apple has blocked a Facebook app that used root access to collect sensitive mobile phone activity.  Facebook paid individuals, including some minors, up to $20 per month in exchange for the ability to watch everything they did.

An Facebook Research app called TechCrunch, performed the data collection. The app is designed to collect granular insight into how 13 year old kids  and 35 years old use their phones, aiding Facebook’s business development.

The problem is, the app wasn’t distributed in Apple’s App Store;instead it was distributed outside the App Store and installed on devices via an Apple enterprise digital certificate. The app was not properly vetted via the normal approval process that Apple it uses for its App Store.

According to Apple, this violated its developer rules and it has revoked Facebook’s enterprise digital certificate.

Experts say that TechCrunch appears to vary little from another Facebook data-snooping VPN app called Onavo Protect. Facebook ceased distribution of the app last year after Apple banned apps that collect data that’s not pertinent to the app’s direct purpose.

Apple’s enterprise certificates are only supposed to be used to deploy an app within an organization. Hence Apple’s revocation of Facebook’s enterprise certificate has bricked the social network’s internal employee apps.

Facebook has been using Apples membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Developers using Apple 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.”

Subsequently, Apple revoked its enterprise certificate for Facebook, meaning the social network can no longer use other employee-only internal iOS apps. Facebook is working with Apple to resolve the situation.

Google Disables Screenwise Meter

Meanwhile, the controversy has caused an Google app called Screenwise Meter to disable. The purpose of the app was to collect  individual’s internet usage data.

The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program has been disabled this app on iOS devices.

Market Researchers Distributed Facebook App

The Facebook Research app was distributed by market research firms, under contract with Facebook, which maintains that the firms gained consent from all users before allowing the app to be installed. Approximately, 5 percent of the users in the market research program are teens, and all signed parental consent forms.

Facebook Research is a VPN app that routes all user traffic via Facebook’s servers. TechCrunch reports that the app would have allowed Facebook to continuously collect private messages within social media apps, search queries, email activity, app activity, location data and web browsing activity.

Regulatory Pressure

Speculations about the Facebook Research app are likely to increase the privacy scrutiny of Facebook. The company is still facing probes over the failures that led to Cambridge Analytica, improperly obtaining personal information for 87 million Facebook users worldwide

Facebook has been under the FTC’s close scrutiny since 2011, when the social network agreed to a strict monitoring regime after the regulator found that it had shared individuals’ personal data without consent

Concerns of Facbook  privacy controls have been raised and whether users are fully informed and understand what the company is doing with their data.  The New privacy law has reshaped expectations as well as legal requirements in multiple countries surrounding how companies manage and protect personal data.

According to GDPR, a privacy rights group,None of Your Business, filed complaints against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Google on the day the law went into effect. The organization alleges that Facebook violates GDPR rules by forcing users to consent to privacy policies.