Google distributed a private application that monitored how people use their iPhones, in the same way that Facebook did, and got into trouble. The Google application, informed today by TechCrunch, reward users with gift cards by allowing Google to collect information about their use of the Internet. The application has been disabled since then.
The application was based on Apple's business program, which allows the distribution of internal applications within a company. That could be a problem: Apple says that these applications should only be used by employees of a company, and companies that violate the policy could be banned, having all their internal applications disabled. That's exactly what happened to Facebook today.
The Google application, called Screenwise Meter, is part of a program that has been running since 2012, which began tracking home web access through a Chrome extension and a tracking router provided by Google. Screenwise is open to anyone over 18, but allows users 13 and even join the program if they are in the same household; that's different from the Facebook tracking application, which was specifically aimed at people between 13 and 25 years old.
Although both the Research application of Facebook and the Google Screenwise application are entirely optional, recent privacy issues have highlighted the extensive collection of user data from technology companies. The applications are not necessarily malicious since users must give their consent to join the programs, but $ 20 a month from Facebook or a couple of Google gift cards in exchange for full access to all their data is, as argues our editor from Silicon Valley, Casey Newton, "A bad bargain for the participants".
The question is whether Apple will impose a similar type of punishment on Google as it has on Facebook. This morning, Apple closed Facebook's ability to run and distribute internal iOS apps, denying distribution to the preliminary version of Facebook, Instagram and more. In a statement on Facebook, Apple said that "any developer who uses their business certificates to distribute applications to consumers will have their certificates revoked."
A spokesman for Google told him The edge, "The iOS Screenwise Meter application should not have operated under the Apple developer business program; This was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this application on iOS devices. This application is completely voluntary and always has been. "We have been direct with users about the way we use their data in this application, we do not have access to encrypted data in applications and devices, and users can choose not to participate in the program at any time."
We have contacted Apple to make comments.
Updated on January 30, 2019 at 5:33 p.m. Eastern time: Google has disabled the application after press coverage. This story has been updated to reflect that Google has stopped distributing the application.