Apple has reportedly shut down Facebook’s access to internal apps on its employees’ phones. The company earlier banned the social network’s ‘research’ app from its Enterprise Developer Program for monitoring users as young as 13.
Internal apps stopped launching on Facebook employees’ phones after Apple revoked the company’s certificate for the Enterprise Developer Program, the Verge reported on Wednesday. The publication was told that Facebook treats what’s happened as “a critical problem internally.”
Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program is designed for distributing apps within organizations. The Silicon Valley-based tech giant earlier banned Facebook’s Research VPN app from the program, saying the social network was in “clear breach” of its agreement with Apple.
A spokesperson for the iPhone manufacturer stated that Mark Zuckerberg’s company used the program’s certificate to distribute the data-collecting app to consumers, and the certificate was revoked in order “to protect our users and their data.”
Facebook had been distributing the Research VPN app since 2016. Users, aged between 13 and 35, were paid $20 a month to download and install it on their mobile phones. The app would then give Facebook access to a variety of personal data. It is not clear what type of data Facebook was monitoring but, once installed, the app would give the tech giant “nearly limitless access” to a user’s smartphone, TechCrunch wrote.
Facebook denied that it has ever ‘spied’ on users. All users who downloaded the app went through a “clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate,” a Facebook spokesperson said, adding that “less than five percent” of them were teenagers.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told CNBC that the app was intended for market research. “The important thing is that the people involved in that research project knew they were involved and consented,” she stressed.
The social network later stated that it decided to pull the iOS version of the app – after it was blocked by Apple. It is still available on Android.