Facebook Research app available for iOS devices, is targeted at teenagers who opted for the tracking service in exchange for $20 gift card reward, while the company claims to use it for analyzing the smartphone usage patterns of the teenagers.
The social media company scout for participants by putting up ads on Instagram, and also via Snapchat, and seeks to monitor all the activities of the users who installed the spy app, without the required permissions.
While Facebook maintains that parental consent forms were filled by the parents of the consenting teenagers to participate in the research, there is no concrete proof to validate that it's actually the parents that filled the forms.
Facebook had to bypass the App Store by directly rewarding the teenagers to download the Research app and sort for root access to network traffic so that it can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, which is an outright violation of Apple's policy.
And to cover its track, the research app is administered by some beta testing services, including: BetaBound, Applause and uTest which conceals Facebook’s actual involvement, and it refers to it in the documentation as “Project Atlas” and serves as its effort to map new trends from rivals around the world.
Apple had responded by blocking the app as it presents a stark breach of it’s policies, and thus revoked Facebook’s Enterprise Developer Certificate for distributing such creepy apps to consumers.
It also warns that anyone using Facebook Enterprise Certificates to distribute apps in the App Store will have their certificates revoked, which is exactly what it did in this case to protect Apple users.