Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Wednesday it disabled its iPhone app called Screenwise, where it had paid some users to install the app and then study their digital habits. The report follows Apple banning Facebook’s Research app, which was tracking teen users.
Google and Facebook had faced criticism from privacy experts for distributing their research apps through a program iPhone maker Apple Inc had created for companies to distribute apps to employees.
“The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologize,” Google said in a statement. Apple did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
In a statement to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said, “This app is completely voluntary and always has been. We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time.”
When Apple banned Facebook tech tool
On January 30, Apple had banned Facebook’s Research app for tracking teen browsing habits. The company said that it had banned Facebook’s apps because the program is designed to let businesses control iPhones used by their employees, and tracking users with the app was a violation of terms and services.
A report on TechCrunch, showed that the social networking company had improperly used it to track the web-browsing habits of teenagers and was paying them around $20 in order to study their browsing habits.
It was reported that users as young as 13 years old installed the Facebook Research. The app then used Apple’s business tools to ask for an iPhone user’s permission to install a so-called virtual private network software that can track browsing habits.
Apple ejected Facebook from the business app program, saying in a statement, the program was “solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organisation.”
“Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” it added.
It should be noted that the ban does not affect Facebook’s regular or other apps in Apple’s App Store. But it does mean that Facebook will not be able to distribute internal apps to its own employees. Facebook in its defense has said that the app was clearly marked as research.
(With inputs from Reuters)