Like Facebook, Google also paid to monitor private user data
Just like Facebook, Google also had a private app that bypassed Apple's App Store regulations and collected user data. The app, called Screenwise Meter, was distributed as a part of a reward program, where users willing to participate had to keep it installed to win gift cards. Google then used it to collect information about their internet activity. The app has now been disabled.
Since 2012, Google has been distributing Screenwise Meter to collect internet usage information from iOS users. Initially, the app accepted participants as young as 13, but sometime later, the minimum age for participants was increased to 18, TechCrunch reported. The app monitored how households used their iPhones (web traffic and data) and used Enterprise Certificate program, going past Apple's rules.
To recall, enterprise-level access is exactly what Facebook is getting hammered for. The social network used these certificates to mine smartphone data from participating teens and adults. Apple, however, restricts such level of access only for internal employee-only apps of a company, not consumer programs.
Just like Facebook, which recently lost permissions for legit enterprise certificate apps, Google could also get in trouble for violating Apple's rules. However, it is imperative to note that unlike Facebook, Google was much more upfront about its involvement and the information collected using the app. Plus, Screenwise Meter even had a Guest Mode aimed at letting users restrict internet usage from being monitored.
In the wake of this report, Google moved quickly to disable the app and apologize for its mistake. "The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple's developer enterprise program - this was a mistake, and we apologize," the company said. "We have disabled this app on iOS devices." However, it still remains to be seen how Apple reacts to this fiasco.
The cases of Facebook and Google have shown how far companies are willing to go to collect user data and internet habits. Yes, their programs were completely voluntary but they still raise major security concerns. Notably, on its part, Google claims it had, "no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time."