At what point are we idiots for using Facebook?

Hint, it’s now.

With yet another sketchy move shrouded in secrecy, the point has come where it’s our fault for trusting and using Facebook. This week Facebook was caught, for lack of literally any other term, using Apple’s internal app distribution program to get teenage customers to track their activity with an app they kindly refer too as a “research” app.

The program was reported by TechCrunch and is just about as horrendous as it first seemed. Facebook has been paying people, mainly teenagers, to install a VPN profile on their phone that would allow the company to consume all of the user’s phone and web activity.

“Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms.

Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook’s involvement, and is referred to in some documentation as “Project Atlas” — a fitting name for Facebook’s effort to map new trends and rivals around the globe.”

On a competence level, the fact that they’re only paying 20$ a month to fully track someone is insane. If you took 20$ from Facebook at this point in the company’s history, I really don’t know what to tell you. What they’re doing with this data and who they’re potentially giving it to is pretty much up for grabs.

Sketchy companies? Sure why not. Foreign adversaries? So what?

Apple came out quickly, amidst their own demonstrable Facetime bug, and gave a quick and justifiably heavy-handed punishment to Facebook.

“Apple said that Facebook was in “clear breach of their agreement with Apple.” Any developer that breaches that agreement, Apple said, has their distribution certificates revoked, “which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on shutting down Facebook’s other internal apps.” The Verge

To be clear, revoking their certificates is a big deal. It’ll stop their apps working internally, including beta versions of Facebook, Instagram, Messanger, and other random beta applications.

This specific situation that Facebook has found themselves in is pretty interesting for a variety of reasons.

One might argue that the people who accepted this proposal from Facebook should have known what they’re getting into and as a result, this is their fault. I would argue that most don’t know the harm that this sort of invasive behavior and data mining could do from a company with resources like Facebook has at their disposal.

I’m not even sure how regulation could have stopped something like this. However, if this isn’t a screaming sign for regulation, I don't know what is. Even not arguing from a moral, regulation sort of angle, what Facebook did was wrong and out of bounds because of how they violated Apple’s agreement.

Using Facebook at this point is like the freaking wild west. The possibilities for what they’re doing and we don’t know about are just as scary as the horrible things we’ve already found out that they've been doing. Each time something like this is uncovered about Facebook, the possibilities for what we haven’t uncovered become even larger and more intimidating.

The difficult part about all of this is how some are forced to use Facebook to some extent. With how dominant they are in advertising and networking for small businesses I understand how difficult it can be for some to get off Facebook. But for real. Get off Facebook.

The next shoe to drop in all of this that not many are talking about, is the Instagram bomb. With Instagram’s original founders out the door last year, the Facebook invasion is slowly taking over. You can see it in the UI and we’re probably going to see it eventually in how Instagram consumes our data.

Don’t trust Facebook.

If you enjoyed this piece, give it a few claps 👏 👏 so others see it too!

If you’d like to support the Unprofessionals, you can do so here or you can follow the Unprofessionals on Medium or Twitter.