GOOGLE HAS MOVED at the speed of Usain Bolt when there's a sponsorship deal on the table to remove an iOS app that it turns out is as much of a privacy knob as Facebook's 'Research' car crash, which was yanked on Wednesday.
"Screenwise Meter", which offers gift cards to iOS users for giving up their phone and internet activity, is the offending app in question.
It was launched by Google, who is no stranger to privacy stories, in 2012, and is now known as the survey-based Google Opinion Rewards. At the time, however, it was also taking automatic phone readings, slurping up data including websites visited, device IP address, and cookies.
Both Facebook and Google are in breach of Apple's rules that come with their enterprise developer kit, which state that such permissions should only be used for internal testing of apps. The developer kit was brought in after a wider crackdown on data harvesting last year, but appears to have become a loophole.
The Facebook Research app was pulled after TechCrunch revealed that it was actually a VPN paying 'yoof' to give up their privacy to data harvesting on Facebook servers for around $20 a month. Financially astute but morally bankrupt, especially as some of its users were just 13.
Facebook's access to Apple's enterprise certificates was blocked on Wednesday, causing carnage at Zuck Towers. It's not as likely that Apple will go the whole hog with Google, not least because "Screenwise Meter" had an opt-out toggle - something Facebook didn't offer.
Google's mea culpa was made yesterday when a statement was released saying: "The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple's developer enterprise program—this was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this app on iOS devices."
Although Google's transgressions are nowhere near those of Facebook, it's still an alarming move, and we wonder how long it would have taken for Google's snooping to come to light if Facebook hadn't taken the bullet first. μ
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