Google Acts After Apple Slaps Facebook for Data Collection, Disables Screenwise Meter on iOS
Hours after Apple revoked Facebook’s iOS developer certificate for using an app that closely tracked some users’ data, a report from TechCrunch said Wednesday that Google also has an app that closely monitors traffic and data on smartphones.
On Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that Facebook “had been secretly paying people to install a ‘Facebook Research’ VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity.” The program paid people, some as young as 13, $20 a month plus referral fees to install voluntarily the app on their iPhone or Android phones.
The news site found that Google is also running a similar app, called “Screenwise Meter,” for users who agree to let the company track data and traffic usage on their smartphones. Google began the Screenwise program in 2012, offering gift cards to participants, later rebranding it as the Google Opinion Rewards program that exchanges certain rewards for access to personal usage information.
“It’s this information that helps us make Google’s products and services more useful to you,” a video explaining the rewards program says. Google has since disabled the data-tracking app.
Last summer, Apple banned apps that collect user data from its App Store. Facebook seems to have found a loophole to continue using such apps through its iOS developer certificate, which allows it to test beta apps among its own employees. Apple called that trick “a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” and revoked the certificate, leaving the company unable to test updates and new versions of its Facebook, Instagram, Messenger apps.
It’s not clear whether Apple will do the same to Google. Its rewards program, unlike Facebook’s, gave users the options to turn off temporarily the monitoring of their traffic.
A Google spokesperson told Fortune “the Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program—this was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this app on iOS devices.”