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NEW YORK, NY – Apple said Wednesday that Facebook violated the company’s policies when it surreptitiously used a research application to gobble up private data on users. The social media company admitted to the caper on Tuesday.
Facebook paid users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month to install the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app and use the program to sell their private information back to the social media company, TechCrunch reported Tuesday. Apple blocked the app before the tech giant could voluntarily remove iOS.
Facebook went to extraordinary lengths to gather the information, the report notes. It asked users of the “Project Atlas” to screenshot their Amazon order history page and used beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak its involvement. The project began in 2016. Apple blasted Facebook for its actions.
“We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization,” a company representative told reporters. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple.” The app will continue to run on Android.
Project Atlas could give Facebook nearly unfettered access to information only available to a select number of app developers, Guardian Mobile Firewall’s security expert Will Strafach told reporters.
“If Facebook makes full use of the level of access they are given by asking users to install the Certificate,” Strafach said, then the company will be able to collect “private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps, including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed.”
He added: “This hands Facebook continuous access to the most sensitive data about you, and most users are going to be unable to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign, because there is no good way to articulate just how much power is handed to Facebook when you do this.” Reports suggest that Facebook has been busy collecting troves of private data.
The report comes amid a hectic time for Zuckerberg’s empire. Facebook revealed in September that hackers had taken advantage of a piece of code allowing them to take over users’ accounts. The company forced more than 90 million users to sign out to return the accounts to their creators.
Facebook has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about Apple’s decision.