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Apple revokes Facebook’s enterprise certificates amid latest data scandal

Apple has taken steps to restrict Facebook’s ability to test iOS apps after it emerged that the social media giant was exploiting its platform to hoover up data from users’ iPhones.

In the latest in a series of escalations between the two companies, Apple said it pulled Facebook’s developer certificates after discovering it was using them to harvest user behaviour data as part of a market research programme.

Apple’s agreement with Facebook stated that it could only deploy developer apps internally, but a TechCrunch report revealed the social network was using them to install VPNs on the phones of paid participants, some of whom were as young as 13.

Facebook had previously said it was ending the programme on Apple, but it appears it had no choice but to do so. In light of TechCrunch’s report, it claimed teenagers made up less than 5 per cent of the programme and had to provide parental consent before taking part.

An Apple spokesperson told NS Tech: “We designed our Enterprise Developer Program 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.

“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.”

Facebook will still be able to distribute its suite of apps through Apple’s store, but it will make it harder for its employees to test early versions of updates to its Facebook, Instagram or Messenger iOS apps. The issue is being treated as a critical problem internally, the Verge reported.

It’s not the first time Apple has clashed with Facebook. The former’s CEO, Tim Cook, has attempted distinguish Apple from its ad-funded rivals in Silicon Valley and has called for tougher regulations around how tech companies use consumer data.

“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” he said in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year.

“The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life – from my own point of view, it shouldn’t exist.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since encouraged employees to use Android devices, citing their larger user base.