New York, Feb 01 (AP/UNB) — Facebook says Apple is restoring its access to a key development tool that the iPhone maker disabled Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that Facebook paid teens and other users who agreed to download an app called Facebook Research. That app could extensively track their phone and web use. Apple said Facebook was abusing the tool , known as a developer enterprise certificate, to distribute the app on iPhones in a way that allowed the social network to sidestep Apple restrictions on data collection.
By revoking the certificate for the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad, Apple closed off Facebook's efforts to sidestep Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy.
Apple did not immediately respond to a message for comment Thursday afternoon. Facebook did not say whether it agreed to any conditions for the certificate restoration.
In an internal memo sent on Wednesday, Facebook told employees it is "working closely" with Apple to reinstate access. It also told workers to install the public versions of apps from the app store. Apps that it said "may not work" included internal versions of Facebook, Workplace, Instagram and the Ride app, which helps workers with transportation. WhatsApp was not affected.
While Facebook engineers could still write code and work on iPhone apps during the shutoff, their ability to test them in the field was limited.
In a statement, Facebook said it is "in the process of getting our internal apps up and running." The company noted that the issue had no impact on its consumer services.
During the shutoff, Facebook also lost the ability to create and push out iPhone apps such as internal tools and apps to its own employees. That's a big deal since Facebook publishes tools and future products to its own team to test before providing them to the public, said Marty Puranik, CEO and founder of cloud hosting company Atlantic.Net.
Puranik, who regularly works with developers, said the certificate revocation also meant developers lost the ability to publish their iPhone apps without vetting by Apple. Those in the program can skip Apple's compliance and user safety checks, which leads to faster updates.
Still, the shutoff didn't seem to debilitate Facebook's ability to work. Its developers work on code on Facebook's internal systems. And version 206.0 of the Facebook app for iPhones was sent out on Thursday morning, while the shutoff was still in effect.
Google said Thursday that Apple has also revoked its enterprise certificate, blocking Google employees from testing new app features on iPhones.
But the company seemed confident it would quickly regain its access. "We're working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon," the company said in a statement.
Google declined to say why it lost the certificate, but came a day after the company voluntarily withdrew market-research app called "Screenwise Meter" that had been distributed to consumers, although not to teens.
Google and Apple have a lucrative business relationship worth billions of dollars a year, since Googles pays a commission for the ads that it sells as the built-in search engine on iPhones.
New York, Feb 01 (AP/UNB) — Facebook says it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it calls "coordinated inauthentic behavior." That's the social network's term for fake accounts run with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.
Facebook has been disclosing such purges more regularly in recent months, including ones linked to groups in Myanmar , Bangladesh and Russia .
The accounts on Facebook and Instagram typically misrepresented themselves as locals in more than two dozen countries ranging from Afghanistan, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Facebook said Thursday the accounts spent about $30,000 on advertisements, paid for in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Canadian dollars and euros.
The company said Twitter helped its investigation by sharing information about suspicious activity it found on its own service. The companies, along with others in the tech industry, have been cooperating more when it comes to such account takedowns by sharing information.
Such cooperation can help the companies avoid regulatory scrutiny by showing critics and lawmakers that they can set aside differences when it comes to battling outside threats that affect their users.
The latest removed accounts, Facebook said, typically represented themselves as locals in various countries, often using fake accounts and posting news stories on current events. This included using stories from Iranian state media about conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Dhaka, Jan 31 (Xinhua/UNB) - The total number of Bangladesh's mobile phone subscribers hit about 157 million at the end of 2018, with addition of nearly 12 million new users in last year, statistics of the country's telecom regulator showed Thursday.
According to data from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of subscribers in the country reached 156.989 million in December 2018.
Bangladesh currently has four mobile companies, three of which are foreign-backed cellphone operators.
The number of subscribers of mobile operators, Grameenphone, Robi Axiata, Banglalink and Teletalk stood at 72.732 million, 46.886 million, 33.518 million and 3.854 million respectively at the end of last year, the BTRC data showed.
According to statistics of the country's telecom regulator, the number of Bangladesh's mobile phone subscribers stood at 145.114 million at the end of December 2017.
New York, Jan 31 (AP/UNB) — Apple says Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use.
In doing so, Apple closed off Facebook's efforts to sidestep Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy.
The tech blog TechCrunch reported late Tuesday that Facebook paid people about $20 a month to install and use the Facebook 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 Wednesday. "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."
Facebook says fewer than 5 percent of the app's users were teens and they had parental permission. Nonetheless, the revelation is yet another blemish on Facebook's track record on privacy and could invite further regulatory scrutiny.
And it comes less than a week after court documents revealed that Facebook allowed children to rack up huge bills on digital games and that it had rejected recommendations for addressing it for fear of hurting revenue growth.
For now, the app appears to be available for Android phones, though not through Google's main app store. Google had no comment Wednesday.
Apple said Facebook was distributing Facebook Research through an internal-distribution mechanism meant for company employees, not outsiders. Apple has revoked that capability.
TechCrunch reported separately Wednesday that Google was using the same privileged access to Apple's mobile operating system for a market-research app, Screenwise Meter. Asked about it by The Associated Press, Google said it had disabled the app on Apple devices and apologized 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.
Facebook is still permitted to distribute apps through Apple's app store, though such apps are reviewed by Apple ahead of time. And Apple's move Wednesday restricts Facebook's ability to test those apps — including core apps such as Facebook and Instagram — before they are released through the app store.
Facebook previously pulled an app called Onavo Protect from Apple's app store because of its stricter requirements. But Strafach, who dismantled the Facebook Research app on TechCrunch's behalf, told the AP that it was mostly Onavo repackaged and rebranded, as the two apps shared about 98 percent of their code.
As of Wednesday, a disclosure form on Betabound, one of the services that distributed Facebook Research, informed prospective users that by installing Facebook Research, they are letting Facebook collect a range of data. This includes information on apps users have installed, when they use them and what they do on them. Information is also collected on how other people interact with users and their content within those apps, according to the disclosure.
Betabound warned that Facebook may collect information even when an app or web browser uses encryption.
Strafach said emails, social media activities, private messages and just about anything else could be intercepted. He said the only data absolutely safe from snooping are from services, such as Signal and Apple's iMessages, that fully encrypt messages prior to transmission, a method known as end-to-end encryption.
Strafach, who is CEO of Guardian Mobile Firewall, said he was aghast to discover Facebook caught red-handed violating Apple's trust.
He said such traffic-capturing tools are only supposed to be for trusted partners to use internally. Instead, he said Facebook was scooping up all incoming and outgoing data traffic from unwitting members of the public — in an app geared toward teenagers.
"This is very flagrantly not allowed," Strafach said. "It's mind-blowing how defiant Facebook was acting."
San Francisco, Jan 30 (AP/UNB) — Apple hoped to offset slowing demand for iPhones by raising the prices of its most important product, but that strategy seems to have backfired after sales sagged during the holiday shopping season.
Results released Tuesday revealed the magnitude of the iPhone slump — a 15 percent drop in revenue from the previous year. That decline in Apple's most profitable product caused Apple's total earnings for the October-December quarter to dip slightly to $20 billion.
Now, CEO Tim Cook is grappling with his toughest challenge since replacing co-founder Steve Jobs 7 ½ years ago. Even as he tries to boost iPhone sales, Cook also must prove that Apple can still thrive even if demand doesn't rebound.
It figures to be an uphill battle, given Apple's stock has lost one-third of its value in less than four months, erasing about $370 billion in shareholder wealth.
Cook rattled Wall Street in early January by disclosing the company had missed its own revenue projections for the first time in 15 years. The last time that happened, the iPod was just beginning to transform Apple.
"This is the defining moment for Cook," said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives. "He has lost some credibility on Wall Street, so now he will have to do some handholding as the company enters this next chapter."
The results for the October-December period were slightly above the expectations analysts lowered after Cook's Jan. 2 warning. Besides the profit decline, Apple's revenue fell 5 percent from the prior year to $84 billion.
It marked the first time in more than two years that Apple's quarterly revenue has dropped from the past year. The erosion was caused by the decline of the iPhone, whose sales plunged to $52 billion, down by more than $9 billion from the previous year.
The past quarter's letdown intensified the focus on Apple's forecast for the opening three months of the year as investors try to get a better grasp on iPhone sales until the next models are released in autumn.
Apple predicted its revenue for the January-March period will range from $55 billion to $59 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been anticipating revenue of about $59 billion.
Investors liked what they read and heard, helping Apple's stock recoup some of their recent losses. The stock gained nearly 6 percent to $163.50 in extended trading after the report came out.
"We wouldn't change our position with anyone's," Cook reassured analysts during a conference call reviewing the past quarter and the upcoming months.
The company didn't forecast how many iPhones it will sell, something Apple has done since the product first hit the market in 2007 and transformed society, as well as technology.
Apple is no longer disclosing how many iPhones it shipped after the quarter is completed, a change that Cook announced in November. That unexpected move raised suspicions that Apple was trying to conceal a forthcoming slump in iPhone sales — fears that were realized during the holiday season.
Cook traces most of Apple's iPhone problems to a weakening economy in China, the company's second biggest market behind the U.S. The company is also facing tougher competition in China, where homegrown companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi have been winning over consumers in that country with smartphones that have many of the same features as iPhones at lower prices.
Although a trade war started by President Donald Trump last year has hurt China and potentially caused some consumers there to boycott U.S. products, many analysts believe the iPhone's malaise stems from other issues too.
Among them are higher prices — Apple's most expensive iPhone now costs $1,350 — for models that aren't that much better than the previous generation, giving consumers little incentive to stop using the device they already own until it wears out. Apple also gave old iPhones new life last by offering to replace aging batteries for $29, a 70 percent discount.
"The upgrade cycle has extended, there is no doubt about that," Cook conceded.
Apple is banking that investors will realize the company can still reap huge profits by selling various services on the 1.4 billion devices running on its software.
That's one reason why Cook has been touting the robust growth of Apple's division that collects commissions from paid apps, processes payments, and sells hardware warranty plans and music streaming subscriptions. Apple Music now has more than 50 million subscribers, second to Spotify's 87 million streaming subscribers through September.
Apple is also preparing to launch a video streaming service to compete against Netflix, though Cook said he wasn't ready to provide details Tuesday.
The company's services revenue in the past quarter climbed 19 percent from the prior year to $10.9 billion — more than any other category besides the iPhone.