Apple, Google and Facebook embroiled in new tech war

Apple shut down Google’s distribution of internal iOS apps on Thursday (31 January), following allegations that the search engine giant had violated Apple’s app distribution policy in wrongly collecting user data for internal research. The move came a day after Apple imposed similar restrictions on Facebook.

Reports surfacing late on Thursday evening said that the functionality of some internal Google iOS apps had been restored, following close work alongside Apple.

Apple also announced on Thursday that earlier restrictions imposed on Facebook applications had been lifted, after the firm was previously found to have been breaching Apple rules by using software to track the web-browsing habits of teenagers.

Apple bans Facebook from tech tools for tracking teen browsing habits

Apple said on Wednesday (30 January) it had banned Facebook from a program designed to let businesses control iPhones used by their employees, claiming the social networking company had improperly used it to track the web-browsing habits of teenagers.

Spying?

“We have had our Enterprise Certification, which enables our internal employee applications, restored,” Facebook said in a statement. “We are in the process of getting our internal apps up and running.

To be clear, this didn’t have an impact on our consumer-facing services.”

In an earlier statement, Facebook had been keen to shut down reports that the company had been accused of ‘spying’ on teenagers through the use of the application in question.

“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,” a Facebook spokesperson informed EURACTIV.

“Less than 5% of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”

2019 LOOKAHEAD: Towards a 'Techno-ethics'

2019 is likely to prove the dawn of a ‘Techno-ethics’ in which consumers will expect their rights to be respected in the digital realm as they are in everyday life and legislators will oblige tech giants to play by the same rules as the wider industry.

EU rules praised

Apple’s moves this week to clamp down on policy violations come as the company itself hit the headlines on Tuesday (29 January), after a major security flaw was unearthed in its FaceTime application, prompting New York governor Andrew Cuomo to issue a consumer alert, calling the bug an “egregious breach of privacy.”

Moreover, Apple is well-known to have been an outspoken advocate of the importance of privacy rules, with CEO Tim Cook praised EU rules during an appearance at the European Parliament last year.

He rallied the US to “follow the lead” of the EU in privacy rules in an October conference on data protection in Brussels, saying that humanity is living amid a “data industrial complex” in which “our own information is being weaponised against us with military efficiency”.

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