How much is your personal data worth?

February 8, 2019

 Image credit: Con Karampelas | Unsplash

 

Apple flexed their technological muscles last week and revoked enterprise certificates for Facebook and Google. The revocation came about after an investigation carried out by TechCrunch found that Facebook had been using the enterprise certificate to gather the personal data of their consumers.

 

The Apple Developer Enterprise Program allows for companies to privately develop and distribute applications internally to their employees, without having to go through the authorisationprocess that certifies applications for release on the App Store for consumer use. 

 

TechCrunch found in their investigation that Facebook had used this enterprise certificate to distribute a Facebook Research VPN to consumers. The sideloaded application allowed Facebook to continuously gather a variety of sensitive information which covered: browsing history, location history, application usage, contents of instant messaging, texts and emails, and photos/videos sent to contacts. All of this information was gathered in the background, in exchange for $20 in gift certificates a month.

 

 Image credit: geralt | Unsplash

 

Apple has long been openly critical of Facebook’s gathering of personal information, having previously banned Facebook’s Onavo Protect application which carried out similar activities under the guise of adding data protection to your phone. Apple were quick to revoke the certificate following the TechCrunch investigation. The certificate was revoked for what amounted to two working days, but reportedly caused chaos as none of their in-house applications worked without the certificate. It later transpired that Google had done the same with their Screenwise Meter application, leading to their enterprise certificate also being revoked.

 

Both companies have now had their certificates reinstated within a couple of days, but the whole debacle sheds a new light on how our personal data is being handled, and potentially mistreated by tech giants. It demonstrates how thirsty they are for our personal data, and just how little they manage to pay to gain every last scrap of it.

 

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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