Facebook published its latest financial results yesterday, with quarterly revenues up 30% year-on-year to $16.91bn, leading to a net profit of $6.88bn in the fourth quarter of 2018. Mobile advertisements accounted for around 93.5% of Facebook’s overall revenues last quarter.
For the year as a whole, Facebook generated just over $55.8bn in revenues, up 37% on 2017. The company ended the year with 2.32bn monthly active users and 1.52bn daily active users. Cue an 11% spike in Facebook’s share price, as Wall Street approved of the general trends.
However, the results came out as Facebook received a hefty slap on the wrist from Apple, after details emerged that it had been harvesting data from smartphone owners via a ‘research’ app installed (on iOS devices) outside the App Store. The app used something called the ‘Enterprise Developer Program’, which is meant for big companies to use to distribute their own apps to employees – either tools for work, or early versions of new / updated consumer apps that are being tested internally.
“Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” said Apple in a statement. “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” This not only nixes Facebook’s research app: it prevents its other internal apps from even launching on Facebook employees’ devices – including early versions of future updates to Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, as well as a transportation app for staff.
Google has since issued an apology for running its own data-research app using the same method. While the media narrative appears to be ‘Facebook got caught out, hurrah for Apple for punishing it!’ there are some concerns being raised too.
“Hi, I’m the nagging voice in the back of your head pointing out that it’s pretty intense that Apple can simply decide to prevent people from running code on their phones,” tweeted The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel. From Facebook and Google to Spotify, that’s a useful warning – even if in this case, Apple’s actions do seem justified.