How Facebook and Google rewarded users for giving away their privacy

How much is your personal data worth?

This week in Silicon Valley, Apple showed Google and Facebook who’s boss.

It began after TechCrunch found Facebook violating Apple’s rules by misusing its enterprise certificates through an app called “Facebook Research”. Soon after Apple found out about this, Google revealed that it had been misusing its certificates through its “Screenwise Meter” app.

Here’s what actually happened:

Through the “Facebook Research” app, the social media giant had paying teens to allow access to almost everything on their phones – including their texts, browsing history, emails, photos and videos. The users were rewarded with as much as $20 a month for running the app and each friend they referred would earn them another $20. The app required users to install a VPN which allowed root access to network traffic on their phones, giving Facebook access to their personal data.

Similarly, Google had been rewarding users with gift cards for downloading its “Screenwise Meter” app and letting it access their personal activity on phones. But Google reportedly had lesser access to data than Facebook.

Although this isn’t illegal as users consented to the installation of the app, it isn’t clear if the users knew exactly what kind of personal data they were handing over.

Enterprise certificates, issued by Apple, can only be used by companies to run apps internally among employees on Apple devices such as iPhones.

Apparently, both the tech giants had made their respective apps for the public, instead of their employees. Apple took this seriously and revoked the companies’ certificates, but restored them back the next day.

Facebook and Google’s internal employee-only apps were affected during the revocation period and the two apps are presumably out of Apple’s App Store.

Surprised? Don’t be.

Facebook and Google already have enough of your data, but is it worth just $20?


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