Facebook’s latest privacy scandal sparks feud with Apple

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The Apple-Facebook standoff over consumer privacy is heating up amid news the social media colossus had been tracking the iPhone habits of customers as young as 13.

Apple, run by Chief Executive Tim Cook, stripped its nemesis, helmed by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, of key developer privileges it needs to test its products on the iPhone, bringing the hammer down after it was revealed the social network had been paying consumers — some of them teenagers — $20 a month to install an information-gathering app on their phones.

The app granted Facebook “nearly limitless access” to the users’ device, including records of which apps were installed, location information and the contents of private messages, according to a report by TechCrunch.

Apple called Facebook’s behavior a “clear breach” of the terms of a program that allows software developers to create beta versions of apps for internal testing by employees.

Zuckerberg’s company, however, had been paying non-employees to download its “Facebook Research” app without Apple knowing, according to the report.

By revoking developer privileges, Apple has kneecapped the social network’s ability to test its product — including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — on any device made by the gadget giant.

“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,” Apple said in a statement.

In response, Facebook this week shuttered its paid research project on Apple products — as did Google, which had been running a similar program on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system.

“Less than five percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens, all of them with signed parental consent forms,” a Facebook spokesperson said of the tracking app.

Apple’s move comes as the iPhone maker faces growing criticism over its own failure to warn consumers about a glitch in its FaceTime video-chat program, which allowed users to eavesdrop on other users. Apple said this week it had disabled the feature while attempting a fixing.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state Attorney General’s office would be investigating Apple over the matter.

The dust-up over the app’s use by teens is the latest salvo in a tug-of-war between Apple and Facebook over user privacy.

Earlier this month, Cook wrote an op-ed in Time magazine calling on the US regulators to protect consumer data, in a thinly veiled attack on Facebook, bemoaning “companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.”

Last year, after it emerged that Facebook improperly shared consumer data with political research firm Cambridge Analytica, Cook warned that Apple views privacy as a “human right” and a “civil liberty.”

“The truth is we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer, if our customer was our product,” Cook said. “We’ve elected not to do that.”

Facebook’s baby-faced chief hit back, calling Cook’s argument “extremely glib.” “I think it’s important that we don’t get all Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you,” Zuckerberg said.

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