On Wednesday, Apple issued a statement claiming that Facebook had breached their agreement regarding reviewing apps for the general public. The announcement comes after it was revealed that Facebook has been paying users — usually teens — about $20 per month to download an app that tracks their online behavior. According to Fox News, the app, which claimed to be for Facebook Research, has been shut down on all Apple devices.
Apple is alleging that Facebook knowingly ignored the standard review process used to approve apps. Apple permits outside companies to build apps on their platform. If the apps are intended specifically for the use of company employees, they are not required to go through the same exhaustive review process that is used for public apps.
“We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization,” Apple said in an interview. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple.”
Critics of the app have been quick to point out the sheer amount of information it allows Facebook to access. This includes emails, web searches, social media apps, photos, and videos sent to friends and family — and even private communications sent across a variety of social networking apps.
Facebook has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and officials for the company have stated there was nothing sneaky or inappropriate about using the app to gather data on users.
“There was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App,” a representative for the company said in an email. “It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.”
Facebook also went on to emphasize that less than 5 percent of people involved in the research program were teenagers. All teenagers who used the Facebook Research app were only allowed to participate after receiving signed consent forms from their parents or guardians.
Apple disabled a Facebook app that was used for invasive research https://t.co/YcjFPELkAn— New York Magazine (@NYMag) January 30, 2019
While Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute iOS apps for the time being, they are still up and running on Android, per usual. Android has not yet commented on the allegations, or indicated whether there will be any change to the apps Facebook can run on their platform.
Facebook employees, meanwhile, are quickly realizing that a large number of internal apps designed by Facebook no longer load on their phones. Facebook has said it will shut down the Research App. There is no word as of yet as to whether Apple will restore functionality to these apps in the future.