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Posts tagged with "facebook"

Facebook Receives Retribution from Apple for Violation of Enterprise Program Guidelines

Facebook is in the news again, and unsurprisingly it’s not the good kind of publicity.

Yesterday Josh Constine of TechCrunch exposed a “Facebook Research” VPN that Facebook has been using to harvest extensive phone data from users age 13 to 35 in exchange for payment from the company of up to $20/month. The practice was made possible by Facebook’s enterprise developer certificate from Apple, but after the story came to light, Apple swiftly responded by revoking that certificate from Facebook and publicly condemning the company’s misuse of Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program. That action caused the immediate end of the Facebook Research initiative on Apple platforms, but it also has reportedly brought widespread consequences throughout the entirety of Facebook’s company operations. Tom Warren and Jacob Kastrenakes, reporting for The Verge:

Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps, from early releases of the Facebook app to basic tools like a lunch menu. A person familiar with the situation tells The Verge that early versions of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and other pre-release “dogfood” (beta) apps have stopped working, as have other employee apps, like one for transportation. Facebook is treating this as a critical problem internally, we’re told, as the affected apps simply don’t launch on employees’ phones anymore.
[…]
Revoking a certificate not only stops apps from being distributed on iOS, but it also stops apps from working. And because internal apps by the same organization or developer may be connected to a single certificate, it can lead to immense headaches like the one Facebook now finds itself in where a multitude of internal apps have been shut down.

This is more than a slap on the wrist, but it seems like a fitting response to Facebook’s blatant abuse of the Apple enterprise agreement. My main hope is that it causes Facebook to think twice before implementing any similarly shady initiatives in the future.

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Facebook’s Onavo Protect VPN App Is Removed from the App Store for Harvesting Data

As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has removed its Onavo Protect VPN app from the App Store after Apple said the app violated rules against data gathering. The app was acquired by Facebook in 2013 as part of its purchase of an Israeli company.

Onavo collected user data using network traffic to provide market intelligence to Facebook about the popularity and use of apps outside its own apps. TechCrunch reported on Onavo’s data collection practices back in February. In June during WWDC, Apple introduced new App Review Guidelines addressing data harvasting, which struck some as a direct response to Onavo.

In a statement to The Verge, Facebook said:

“We’ve always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement given to The Verge. “As a developer on Apple’s platform, we follow the rules they’ve put in place.”

It’s good to see Apple enforce App Review guidelines against companies of all sizes, though a little disappointing that it has taken so long.



Facebook Shutters Paper

The Verge reports that Facebook is removing Paper, its design-forward alternative Facebook client, from the App Store today.

Paper was notable for the novel animations it used to guide you through the app — tap on a link and it would unfold like a letter; pull down on the story and it would fold back up, returning you to the feed.

Paper was one of the first products launched by Facebook from Creative Labs an experimental design and development group within Facebook that hired numerous high-profile designers around 2011, including Mike Matas. Matas’ early career highlights include stints at Delicious Monster and Apple where he had a hand in several of the interface elements of the original iPhone, iPad and OS X. He left Apple to found Push Pop Press with the goal of reimagining digital books. Push Pop Press had one product, an interactive version of Al Gore’s book Our Choice.

In August, 2011, Facebook acquired Push Pop Press. The animations and other design elements of Facebook’s Paper, which debuted in early 2014, were heavily influenced by Matas’ and Push Pop’s work on Our Choice and critically acclaimed at the time for their innovations, but the app never caught on with Facebook users. Facebook closed the Creative Labs group last December and Matas left Facebook earlier this year, so the shuttering of Paper is not surprising.

Facebook users who previously downloaded Paper can continue to use it until July 29, 2016, after which Facebook has said the app will no longer work.

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Facebook Buys Popular MSQRD Face Swapping App

Alex Heath, reporting for Tech Insider:

Masquerade’s app lets you overlay playful, animated filters over your face using your phone’s selfie camera. The effects range from Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars (right) to a monkey, and they’re fun to play with. You can record video in the app or take a still photo to share on other social networks.

And:

Expect Masquerade’s face swapping filters to show up in the Facebook app eventually.

The social network also plans to keep Masquerade operational as a standalone, free app, as well as integrating its technology into Facebook. The effects join a line of creative tools Facebook has added to its app already, like stickers, finger doodles, and photo filters.

Masquerade built impressive technology for real-time camera manipulation (I also featured the app in a recent collection of MacStories Weekly for Club members). The acquisition makes sense – from anecdotal experience, in the past couple of months I’ve seen a lot of my friends post selfies modified with Masquerade and Face Swap.

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Facebook Starts Rolling Out Support for Live Photos

Harry McCracken, writing at FastCompany:

Facebook is announcing that it’s begun introducing support for Live Photos in its app for the iPhone and iPad, allowing users of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to upload Live Photos from their devices. The feature will be available to just a small percentage of members at first, and will gradually roll out to more.

People who are included in the app rollout and who view those photos on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 will see the photos you shared as Live Photos. Everybody else—such as those with Android phones, Macs, or Windows PCs—will just see a conventional still picture and be none the wiser.

Facebook follows Tumblr as the second big network to add native support for Live Photos. If only there was also a social network where you could post pictures as quick updates and they could animate in a timeline. That would be nice, I guess.

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Facebook Shuts Down Creative Labs

In more shutdown news today, Facebook has also announced they’re closing Creative Labs, their internal initiative aimed at shipping separate, more creative apps. Ian Sherr, writing at CNET:

As of Monday, Slingshot, Rooms and Riff, an app that allowed users to create and share short videos based on a theme, have been pulled from app stores. The Menlo Park, California-based company has also removed the Web page for Creative Labs.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the apps had disappeared, noting they hadn’t been updated in some time.

“Since their launches, we’ve incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps,” she added.

Creative Labs was also behind Paper, the company’s alternative Facebook app, which is still only available on the US App Store. Personally, I’ve always preferred Paper’s interactions to the official Facebook app, but I feel like it’s going to follow the same path as the other Facebook apps.

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Facebook Confirms Background Audio Issues in iOS App, Releases Fix

In a post on Facebook, Ari Grant, engineering manager for iOS at Facebook, has confirmed that the Facebook app was affected (among other bugs) by background audio issues which caused high battery consumption.

The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing. The app isn’t actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.

From what I’ve heard, today’s update to Facebook for iOS has removed the background audio permission completely. Facebook is working on more fixes, which, as Grant also mentions, include improvements to the app’s network code.

At this point, I don’t think it’s productive anymore to speculate on how long the problem has been around. I’m glad that Facebook has publicly acknowledged issues that were affecting battery life on iOS and it’s good to see fixes being released to address them.

I’m going to reinstall the Facebook app and see how it goes.

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The Background Data and Battery Usage of Facebook’s iOS App

Nick Heer, commenting on Facebook’s battery usage on iOS in response to a piece by Matt Galligan:

Make no mistake: this is user-hostile. Facebook is actively creating channels to continue refreshing their app in the background when the user has explicitly stated that they do not want it to. Ironically, the best way to reduce the battery and data consumption of the Facebook app in the background is to switch Background App Refresh back on. Better still, remove the Facebook app from your phone, and perhaps replace it with Paper (US store only).

Every time I take a look at a friend’s iPhone, Facebook is the app with the highest amount of battery usage in the background – even with Background App Refresh turned off. This has been going on for years, and instead of fixing the issue, it does seem like Facebook is always coming up with new ways to circumvent user control and consume more energy.

The fact that a company the size of Facebook can’t optimize energy consumption of their iOS app is simply ridiculous. If they can but don’t want to (because of processes they want to run in the background, constant notifications, etc.) – well, that’s even worse.

My solution has been the same for the past couple of years: never install the Facebook app, and always access Facebook from Safari.

Update: With iOS 9’s improved energy consumption stats, it’s easier to guess one of the various tricks Facebook may be employing to stay active in the background and drain battery. On my girlfriend’s iPhone, for instance, iOS 9 reports 5 hours of on-screen usage for the last 7 days, and another 11 hours of background audio usage with Background App Refresh turned off.

My guess is that Facebook is hijacking audio sessions on iOS by keeping silent audio in the background whenever a video plays in the app. And because, by default, videos on Facebook auto-play on both Wi-Fi and Cellular and few people ever bother to turn it off, that means there’s a high chance the Facebook app will always find a way to play a video, keep audio in the background, and consume energy to perform background tasks. I’m not alone in noticing the mysterious “Facebook audio” background consumption, and video auto-play seems to me the most likely explanation at this point. I don’t know if turning off auto-play may fix the problem, but I’d recommend doing that anyway to save data.

I wonder if Apple should consider additional battery controls to take action against shady practices like invisible background audio. What Facebook is doing shows a deep lack of respect for iOS users. I continue to recommend using Safari instead.

Update 10/15: In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Facebook confirmed they’re aware of an issue causing battery draining for users, and they’re working on a “fix”. Facebook didn’t provide any additional details on the nature of the issue.

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