Apple further cemented its leadership position on privacy in big tech on Wednesday, scoring points for its own brand and dealing a blow to Facebook’s by stripping the latter of developer credentials for an app that mined the search history of thirteen-year-olds. Yikes.
Not only did Facebook’s “Research” app, which paid 13- to 35-year-old users $20/month to access their search history, emails, and private messages, set off every imaginable alarm on the this-will-look-bad-when-the-exposé-comes-out PR radar (does Facebook have one of those?), but the app also blatantly violated the terms of Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program, which proscribes distributing apps to consumers. It probably didn’t help that Facebook was searching tweens’ most personal data for dirt on its competitors. Since its credentials were revoked, Facebook has shuttered the iOS version of the app, BuzzFeed reported.
In all seriousness, Facebook’s failure to anticipate these media meltdowns over its cavalier corporate attitude on privacy, and Apple’s contrary ability to curry favor with industry watchdogs by taking proactive steps on the matter and shaming its rivals in the process, boggles the mind. The company looks like that meme of the world burning, and internal morale appears to reflect the disapprobation growing from without.
What does the fall of the mighty in the hallowed halls of online tech journalists and pundits portend for the erstwhile darling of American entrepreneurship? As far as Facebook’s bottom line is concerned, the short-term answer may be not much: As long as the economy is buzzing along, Google and Facebook’s hold on the digital ad market will buoy them. They will continue to reap the benefits of the obsession with our smartphones that the sly devils at Facebook pioneered themselves.
Look to the location experts, though, and the picture looks less sure and less rosy. As Freckle IoT and Killi founder and CEO Neil Sweeney pointed out in Street Fight a couple of weeks ago, the maelstrom of privacy-related legislation about to wallop the United States, starting with the California Consumer Protection Act next January, will forever change the way platforms, vendors, and brands do data-driven business. Sweeney noted that consent management will be the hot corporate topic of 2019—behind the scenes for sure, if not out in the open—and “do-you-accept” buttons, he tells us, are no longer going to cut it for consent management.
Think Facebook can get away with a smaller do-you-accept button for minors?
Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s managing editor.