Apple busts Google, Facebook enterprise apps for flouting privacy rules

Apple blocked Facebook and Google from running their internal iOS applications after the two technology giants were found to be flouting privacy norms. Facebook was reportedly tracking iPhone usage data of teenagers through its Facebook Research app, while Google was misusing iOS certificates and inviting its users to download an app called Screenwise Meter, which is not on the Apple store.

The companies have taken advantage of Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program, which helps certain partners of the company to test and distribute apps – but only to test new features before releasing the final version to the public. Apple had revoked the certificates given to Facebook when it was revealed that Mark Zuckerberg-owned Facebook allegedly paid people, who were not its employees, to test out its research app.

Enterprise certificates were restored for both tech firms later, but Apple has sent a strong message to them about respecting user privacy.

In a statement, Facebook said: “People participating in the Research app were asked for their permission, less than 5 percent of whom were teens  – in which cases, they were allowed to participate with parental consent forms.”

Reportedly, Facebook paid people about $20 a month to install and use the research app. While Facebook says this was done with permission, the company has a history of defining ‘permission’ loosely and obscuring what data it collects.

“I don’t think they make it very clear to users precisely what level of access they were granting when they gave permission,” mobile app security researcher Will Strafach said. “There is simply no way the users understood this.”

He said Facebook’s claim that users understood the scope of data collection was ‘muddying the waters’. This revelation is yet another blemish on Facebook’s track record on privacy and could invite further regulatory scrutiny.

For now, the app appears to be available for Android phones, though not through Google’s main app store.

When asked about its issues with Apple, Google said it had disabled the app on Apple devices and apologised for its ‘mistake’.

The company said Google had always been ‘upfront with users’ about how it used data collected by the app, which offered users points that could be accrued for gift cards. In contrast to the Facebook Research app, Google said its Screenwise Meter app never asked users to let the company circumvent network encryption, meaning it is far less intrusive.


Uber, Ola Flouting Government Notification on Fares: Magic Sewa

Uber, Ola Flouting Government Notification on Fares: Magic Sewa

With a radio cab company alleging inaction on part of the authorities to implement the rules with regard to fares to be charged by taxis, Delhi High Court on Friday sought a status report from the city government.

Justice J R Midha while seeking a status report from the Delhi government said he was prima facie of the view that it was a public interest litigation (PIL) and thus needed to be filed before the appropriate bench.

Magic Sewa Pvt Ltd has alleged in its plea that certain unlicensed taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola, “have been disdainfully violating” the government’s notification on fares by charging very low amounts like Rs. 5 per km or as high as Rs. 38 per km.

“They also charge the so-called ‘peak time charge’ or ‘surge price’ over and above the normal fares on a day and time of their own choosing. This ‘peak time charge’ or ‘surge price’ could be as high as five times the normal fare published by the unlicensed taxi aggregators.

(Also see:  Odd-Even Scheme: Delhi Says Action Will Be Taken Against ‘Surge Pricing’)

“These unlawful practices of unlicensed taxi aggregators are adversely affecting the livelihood of petitioner no. 1 (Magic Sewa) and its survival is at stake,” the petition, filed through advocate Pranav Sachdeva, said.

It has alleged that app-based cab companies like Ola and Uber were not complying with the City Taxi Scheme, 2015 or the fares notified under the Motor Vehicles Act.

“By deciding the fares for taxis operating under their networks, unlicensed taxi aggregators have, for all practical purposes, usurped the powers of the state,” it has said.

It has also contended “neither the provisions of law can be tampered with, nor the passengers can be deceived in the name of competition. Attracting a prospective passenger with a published fare as low as Rs. 5 per km but charging the passenger as high as Rs. 38 per km in the name of ‘peak time charge’ or ‘surge pricing’ is downright misleading, mischievous and cheating.”

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Tags: Apps, Magic Sewa, Ola, Ola Cabs, Uber, Uber Taxi