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Apple Busts Facebook for Distributing Data-Sucking App

Apple says Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use.

Posted: Jan 30, 2019 11:41 AM

By BARBARA ORTUTAY , AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple says Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use.

The tech blog TechCrunch reported late Tuesday that Facebook paid about $20 a month to use the Facebook Research app. While Facebook says this was done with permission, the company has a history of defining "permission" loosely and obscuring what data it collects.

Facebook says fewer than 5 percent of the app's users were teens and they had parental permission. Nonetheless, the revelation is yet another blemish on Facebook's track record on privacy and could invite further regulatory scrutiny.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook sidestepped Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy. Apple says Facebook was using a distribution mechanism meant for company employees, not outsiders, so Apple has revoked that capability.

As of Wednesday, a disclosure form on Betabound, one of the services that distributed Facebook Research, informed prospective users that by installing the software, they are letting Facebook collect a range of data. This includes information on apps you have installed, when you use them and what you do on them. Information is also collected on how other people interact with users and their content within those apps, according to the disclosure.

Betabound warned that Facebook may collect information even when an app or web browser uses encryption.

Mobile app security researcher Will Strafach, who studied the app on TechCrunch's behalf, told The Associated Press that he was aghast to discover Facebook caught red-handed violating Apple's trust. He said such traffic-capturing tools are only supposed to be for trusted partners to use internally. Instead, he said Facebook was scooping up all incoming and outgoing data traffic from unwitting members of the public — in an app geared toward teenagers.

"This is very flagrantly not allowed," said Strafach, CEO of Guardian Mobile Firewall. "It's mind-blowing how defiant Facebook was acting."

He called "muddying the waters" any attempt by Facebook to claim that users who installed the apps understood the unrestrained scope of the data collection.

"I don't think they make it very clear to users precisely what level of access they were granting when they gave permission," Strafach said. "There is simply no way the users understood this."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4038

Reported Deaths: 148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah109358
Marion92025
Washington70317
Clackamas30010
Deschutes1200
Linn1159
Umatilla1123
Polk9810
Lane672
Yamhill677
Jackson650
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Clatsop450
Klamath410
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Union60
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Crook60
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Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
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California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 101050

Reported Deaths: 3895
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles487612201
Riverside7139303
San Diego6882249
Orange5646136
San Bernardino4567176
Alameda304993
Santa Clara2688140
San Francisco240840
San Mateo196382
Kern194136
Tulare179679
Santa Barbara160412
Fresno153526
Contra Costa137537
Imperial135224
Sacramento131956
Ventura101732
San Joaquin77133
Kings6983
Stanislaus67028
Sonoma5244
Solano49920
Monterey4298
Marin42014
Merced2737
San Luis Obispo2631
Santa Cruz2052
Yolo20022
Placer1949
Napa1093
Humboldt982
Madera902
El Dorado800
San Benito762
Sutter422
Nevada411
Butte400
Del Norte400
Shasta374
Mono351
Yuba281
Mendocino230
Lake190
Inyo191
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Glenn130
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Tuolumne40
Plumas40
Lassen40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
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