iPhone data row: Now Apple clears Google, Facebook to run private iOS apps again

Google and Facebook have regained enterprise certificates to run internal iOS apps with employees.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google and Facebook employees can once again use private iOS apps after Apple reinstated the necessary enterprise certificates. The iPhone maker yesterday had yanked the certificates from both companies for misusing them to distribute data-gathering iOS apps to the public.

Google and Facebook were caught earlier this week using Apple's Enterprise Developer Program in a way that Apple said was a "clear breach of their agreement with Apple". 

The program is intended for enterprise customers to test and deploy iOS apps among employees without using the iOS App Store. Apple stipulates that apps for the public should be distributed through App Store.

After news broke that Apple had revoked Facebook's enterprise certificate over its non-compliant Facebook Research app, Google shut down its similar research app, Screenwise Meter. 

The search and ad giant apologized and said it was a mistake to have operated the app under Apple's enterprise developer program. 

While Apple's move blocked the two non-compliant research apps, it also blocked private iOS apps the companies had been legitimately using with employees.  

It wasn't immediately clear whether Apple would revoke Google's certificate, but Apple had said in an earlier statement that "any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked".

SEE: IT pro's guide to GDPR compliance (free PDF)

Shortly after Google's apology, Apple followed through and revoked Google's enterprise certificate too. A Google spokesperson told ZDNet afterwards: "We're working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon."      

Google and Facebook on Thursday confirmed to the media that Apple had reinstated their certificates, clearing them to use internal iOS apps once again.   

Apple has in the past revoked enterprise developer certificates from rogue developers who'd used them to distribute malicious iOS apps outside Apple's walled-garden

But the practice of using Apple's enterprise program isn't uncommon and Apple is now likely to crack down on misuse by other companies too. 

As spotted by The Verge, Amazon's Flex app for contractor deliverers also relies on Apple's enterprise program. Apple's terms exclude contractors from its definition of 'internal use application', unless that contractor is actually helping develop the internal app.   


Apple's definition of internal use applications.

Image: Apple

Previous and related coverage

Google shuts down iPhone data-gathering app: 'This was a mistake, and we apologize' 

Google says its Screenwise Meter app in Apple's enterprise program should never have been there.

Facebook slammed over covert app that pays teenagers for data

The Facebook Research app pays teenagers $20 for extensive access to their phone and web activity.

Apple pulls the plug on Facebook's internal iOS apps

Flouting Apple's privacy rules have reportedly resulted in severe consequences for the social media giant.

Best place to work? Google, Facebook slip down rankings after year of controversy

Facebook's ranking as the best place to work in the US takes a dive after 2018's scandals.

Facebook earnings, user base jump even as scandals grow CNET

CEO Mark Zuckerberg also oversees a jump in sales and profit.

Apple revokes Facebook's ability to deploy apps internally amid privacy scandal dispute TechRepublic

What happens when you get kicked out of Apple's Enterprise Developer program? Facebook is finding out the hard way.

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