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Apple Shuts Down Facebook’s Internal Apps Due to Flagrant Policy Violations

On 30 January 2019, Facebook employees came into work to a nasty surprise: the company’s internal iOS apps for managing transit options, testing prerelease software, and even ordering lunch had all stopped working. The move was punishment by Apple for Facebook bypassing App Store policies by distributing a data-collecting app that relied on an Enterprise Developer Program certificate to paid users, some as young as 13. Apple told Recode:

We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. 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.

The Facebook Research app in question was likely a derivative of Facebook’s Onavo Protect VPN—see “Beware “Protect” In Facebook’s iOS App,” 14 February 2018—which Facebook eventually removed from the App Store under pressure from Apple. Employees inside Facebook are furious at both Apple and their employer, while Facebook tries to negotiate with Apple to get the certificates reinstated. Meanwhile, Google was also caught distributing a similar app in a similar manner but has now disabled it and apologized.

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Comments About Apple Shuts Down Facebook’s Internal Apps Due to Flagrant Policy Violations

Notable Replies

  1. As of right now, it’s permanent. Facebook is trying to negotiate with Apple, and we’ll see how that goes.

  2. My suspicion is that shutting down Google probably wasn’t Apple’s favourite option (hence the delay)—especially given Google’s rapid backdown yesterday. But
    it seems like, from a PR standpoint, Apple more or less had to shut them down, once it became very public that they had been doing the same thing as Facebook.

    I can’t help thinking that Google may decide to retaliate in some way, though.

  3. allen.gainsford
    Allen Gainsford

        January 31
    

    My suspicion is that shutting down Google probably wasn’t Apple’s favourite option (hence the delay)—especially given Google’s rapid backdown yesterday.

    Google’s big annual contribution to Apple’s services revenue could be a reason why they banned Facebook first and made more noise about it:

    Google to Pay Apple $12 Billion to Remain Safari’s Default Search Engine in 2019

    http://fortune.com/2018/09/29/google-apple-safari-search-engine/

    But

    it seems like, from a PR standpoint, Apple more or less had to shut them down, once it became very public that they had been doing the same thing as Facebook.

    I can’t help thinking that Google may decide to retaliate in some way, though.

    Currently, Facebook is facing much stronger head winds over privacy than Google. And Google would not be shelling out billions more than Microsoft did for Bing to be Safari’s default search engine. And they wouldn’t be paying billions more every year if it wasn’t benefiting their bottom line. And Google is also better at handling the press and partner relations than Facebook.

  4. Facebook has a new developer certificate and Apple and Google are working on getting Google a new one. Clearly Apple did the right thing: they revoked the certificates used by applications that broke the rules, and are allowing both companies to create new ones so that they can continue to do internal development that doesn’t break the rules.

  5. Apple also got a lot of excellent front page, above the fold, overwhelmingly positive publicity across the globe, the kind of positioning advertising $$$$$$$ can’t buy.

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