Facebook to Shut Down Controversial iOS Market Research App as Apple Revokes Certificate [Updated]

facebookappFacebook has said it will end a controversial market research program in which the company paid users to install a mobile app that tracked their activity and data.

In a statement given to TechCrunch and other websites, the company said that its "Facebook Research" app, which paid volunteers between the ages of 13 and 35 up to $20 a month to access nearly all their data, would no longer be available on iOS.

The news came just hours after TechCrunch's exposé on the Facebook app, which used an enterprise certificate on iPhones to get people to sideload the app and skirt Apple's App Store rules. In the same announcement, the company also took issue with the way its "Project Atlas" program had been reported, claiming:

Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite early reports, there was nothing 'secret' about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. 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. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens, all of them with signed parental consent forms.

In August 2018, Apple forced Facebook to remove its Onavo VPN app from the ‌App Store‌ because Facebook was using it to track user activity and data across multiple apps, which is a violation of Apple's ‌App Store‌ policy.

According to TechCrunch, a significant amount of code in the banned Onavo VPN app overlaps with the company's Facebook Research app, which remains available on Android devices.

Update: Apple revoked Facebook's certificate for the app, according to a statement it provided to Recode:

We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.

Top Rated Comments

freezelighter Avatar
31 months ago
Shut down Facebook.
Make the world great again.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThunderSkunk Avatar
31 months ago
Sad that the media hate on companies with these bullsh!t stories.This was an open and above board research app that under 18’s had to get parental permission to use.
I remember when I was young, and we got the new high speed 14.4 modem, dialed in, and there were all these colorful websites showing beautiful girls doing wild things we’d never even imagined. But, you had to be over 18 to click proceed, so of course we never saw any of it...
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arkitect Avatar
31 months ago
Good. Another wooden stake thru the heart. Throw some holy water on FB, and maybe it will die.
Actually this is more like fighting the Hydra… slice off one head and two grow in its place.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple_Robert Avatar
31 months ago
Good. Another wooden stake thru the heart. Throw some holy water on FB, and maybe it will die.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chrjy Avatar
31 months ago
I think the writing is on the wall for Facebook, I can't seem them being around in a few years.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
31 months ago
Sad that the media hate on companies with these bullsh!t stories.

This was an open and above board research app that under 18’s had to get parental permission to use.
That was a filthy and stealthy attempt to grab _all_ of a users network access and make it accessible to Facebook. They abused an Enterprise account which allows you to install apps that are not reviewed by Apple _on devices belonging to your company_. So Zukerberg could have installed this app on his company phone, but had no right whatsoever to install it on any phone not used by a Facebook employee.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple watch 6s 202009

Bloomberg: Apple Watch Series 7 to Feature Thinner Screen Bezels, Faster Processor, and Updated Ultra Wideband Tech

Monday June 14, 2021 3:41 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 7 is likely to have thinner display bezels and use a new lamination technique that brings the display closer to the front cover, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The Cupertino, California-based tech giant is planning to refresh the line this year -- with a model likely dubbed the Apple Watch Series 7 -- by adding a faster processor,...
ios 15 home screen icons

iOS 15 Lets You Drag and Drop Images and Text Across Apps

Saturday June 12, 2021 3:17 pm PDT by
Apple this week previewed iOS 15, which is available now in beta for developers ahead of a public release later this year. One smaller but useful new feature added is the ability to drag and drop images, text, files, and more across apps on iPhone. MacStories editor-in-chief Federico Viticci demonstrated the new feature in a tweet: Using cross-app drag and drop on iPhone in iOS 15. Finally 🎉 #WW ...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
apple virtual game controller ios 15

Apple Makes New On-Screen Game Controller Available to Developers on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

Saturday June 12, 2021 12:36 pm PDT by
During the Platforms State of the Union at WWDC this week, Apple unveiled a new API for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 that enables developers to implement an on-screen virtual game controller in their iPhone and iPad games with just a few lines of code. While many iPhone and iPad games already offer on-screen controls, Apple's new virtual game controller is available to all developers, easy to add,...
ipad mini 6

Next iPad Mini Will Allegedly Feature Thinner Bezels, USB-C Port, and Touch ID Power Button

Friday June 11, 2021 1:13 pm PDT by
On his newly launched Front Page Tech website, leaker Jon Prosser has shared renders showing off the alleged design of the next-generation iPad mini, which he says are based on schematics, CAD files, and real images of the device. In line with details shared earlier this month by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, Prosser claims that the new iPad mini will feature slimmer bezels around...
maxresdefault

Apple Promotes iPad Pro in New Ad With 'The Little Mermaid' Musical Spin

Saturday June 12, 2021 7:01 am PDT by
In a currently unlisted ad on YouTube, Apple is promoting the versatility, portability, and power of the M1 iPad Pro in a fun musical inspired by The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World" soundtrack. In the ad, which features the main character using an M1 iPad Pro, Magic Keyboard, and Apple Pencil, multiple users can be seen struggling with their old PCs indoors while hoping that they can...
passwords system preferences

macOS Monterey Features Dedicated Password Section in System Preferences, Built-In Authenticator and More

Friday June 11, 2021 2:32 pm PDT by
macOS Monterey makes several improvements to password management, positioning iCloud Keychain as an ideal password service to replace third-party services like Lastpass and 1Password. In System Preferences, there's a new "Passwords" section that houses all of your iCloud Keychain logins and passwords so they're easier to get to, edit, and manage. There's a similar Passwords section that's...
macos monterey tidbits feature copy

macOS Monterey Tidbits: Animated Memoji on Login Screen, Change the Color of the Mouse Pointer, and More

Friday June 11, 2021 10:27 am PDT by
We've highlighted several new features coming in macOS Monterey, such as Low Power Mode and the option to erase a Mac without reinstalling the operating system, but there are some smaller tidbits that we wanted to share. Animated Memoji on Login Screen One small but fun new feature in macOS Monterey is the addition of a personalized Memoji on the login screen, complete with animated facial...
m1 imac back

Some M1 iMac Models Shipping With Crooked Mountings

Monday June 14, 2021 12:50 pm PDT by
Some M1 iMacs appear to have a manufacturing defect that causes the display to be mounted on the stand in a way that's not perfectly aligned, leading to a crooked display. YouTuber iPhonedo over the weekend published a review of the M1 iMac, and he found that his machine appeared to be tilted on one side, a mounting disparity that was visibly noticeable and proved with a ruler. Another...
mr white ipod touch 5 protoype3

Unreleased iPod Touch 5 With Chamfered Edges and 30-Pin Dock Connector Shared Online

Thursday June 10, 2021 2:05 am PDT by
Occasional leaker Mr White has today shared interesting images on Twitter of what appears to be an old-school fifth-generation iPod touch prototype with chamfered edges and a brushed aluminum finish. The original iPod touch 5 that Apple released in October 2012 had a unibody anodized aluminum chassis with rounded edges, and was available in several colors, including slate. Another...