The latest revelations by TechCrunch regarding Facebook’s program of tracking the browsing habits of teenagers has come at a cost for the social media company. Apple has decided to toss out Facebook from their Apple Business Tools services that let businesses to control the iPhones that are used by staff.
While no such feature exists for iPhones that are meant for personal use, businesses which distribute the same to the members of their staff are given certificates by Apple that allow them to have significant control over the phones. If a business has such a certificate, then it is possible to install apps remotely, track usage of apps, access and also delete data stored in the iPhone. These certificates were designed for businesses and organizations which give out iPhones to their staff for use on official duty.
While what Facebook had been doing under the Facebook Research program has raised a lot of questions regarding privacy, it is perhaps more galling that they paid the teenagers so that their browsing habits could be tracked. However, what must have instigated Apple in taking this step is perhaps to do with the fact that this program used Apples’s Business Tools to gain access to a user’s phone and then tracked them.
On Wednesday, Apple released a statement, in which it said that Facebook had been tossed from the Apples Business Tools program since that is solely meant to be under the control of business owners. The statement added, “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple.” While other apps like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp will still be available regular iPhone users, the social media company will no longer be able to test these internal apps on its own employees.
Following the developments, Facebook has been in damage control mode throughout. It released a statement in which the company stated that there was nothing sinister or secret about the whole program. It stated, “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this. It was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear onboarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.” The company went on to stress that no more than 5% of the participants were teenagers and all of them who joined had their parents’ consent.