Regulators should study the Facebook Research incident

Facebook’s move to intentionally skirt Apple’s rules in order to spy on consumers’ mobile phone activities was “a particularly egregious abuse of power on Facebook’s behalf.”

…Facebook’s brouhaha with Apple seems to have begun with an app owned by the social-networking company called Onavo. That app offers a virtual private network, a way of cordoning off data from the general internet to protect users’ activities from being monitored. And that’s the way Facebook marketed it.

But Onavo was designed to allow Facebook itself to monitor everything users of the app were doing on their phones. And the data it provided reportedly gave the company crucial intelligence about emerging competitors, including WhatsApp, which Facebook later purchased, and Snapchat, whose features it copied.

…Like Onavo, Facebook Research offered a VPN that kept tabs on users’ phone activities. The social-networking company paid consumers as young as 13 to install the app so it could monitor what they were doing on their smartphones.

But instead of offering Facebook Research through the public App Store, Facebook got it out to users surreptitiously, having third-party companies offer it through a process Apple created to allow enterprises to distribute internal apps to their employees. The move was a clear violation of both the letter and spirit of Apple’s rules.

Regulators should study the Facebook Research indicident – Business Insider



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