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Google to shut down its data-vacuuming app on iOS devices

Similar to "Facebook Research" VPN app, Google too has a data-vacuuming app, raising questions of user privacy.

  • Published: January 31, 2019 3:18 PM IST

Yesterday, we reported that Facebook paid $20 to some users to obtain their data as part of a research project since 2016. Now, a report by Techcrunch suggests that the social media network is not alone, Google too has a data-vacuuming app. The search giant has been running an app named Screenwise Meter, which seems quite similar to “Facebook Research” VPN app.

The report mentioned that the app lets users earn gift cards “for sideloading an Enterprise Certificate-based VPN app that allows Google to monitor and analyze their traffic and data.” Google reportedly targets users aged 18 and up, and ask them to download the app. The app was launched in 2012. Google’s research data collection program work in a different manner when compared to Facebook. It offers an option of ‘Guest mode’ as well, which allows users to stop Google from monitoring the traffic.

Furthermore, the search giant collects data of “the sites you visit, the apps you use, the television shows that play on your television, information about how you use them, device IP address, and cookies. […] we learn what times of day you browse the internet or watch TV, how long you stay on websites/apps, what types of websites, apps, and TV programs are popular (or not), and how you interact with media when there is more than one screen vying for your attention,” as per Google. Besides, Apple recently blocked Facebook from running its internal iOS apps, as the social network platform leveraged Apple’s enterprise program to access users data.

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Following the issue, Google has issued a statement that they will shut down the iOS version of Screenwise Meter from Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program. “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. This app is completely voluntary and always has been. We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time,” the cited source stated. Apple is yet to comment on this issue.

  • Published Date: January 31, 2019 3:18 PM IST