Apple blocks Facebook from running internal iOS apps after ‘research’ app controversy

Image: iEvangelos

Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps after learning they were paying to gain access to user’s iPhone’s through a “research” app. Here’s everything we know about the situation.

According to The Verge, a person familiar with the situation told them that all pre-release versions of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and more, have stopped working, including Facebook’s employee apps. Furthermore, The Verge reports that Facebook is treating the situation internally as critical.

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Image: Apple

Both Apple and CEO Tim Cook has made it clear on their stance on privacy. “We’re committed to keeping your personal information safe. That’s why we innovate ways to safeguard your privacy on your device, why we’re upfront about how we personalize your experience,” says Apple’s webpage on privacy.

Tim Cook says privacy is a “human right,” and “civil liberty.” Shortly after the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack in 2016, Tim Cook released a letter on privacy regarding FBI involvement, “Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple, we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.” Furthermore adding, “Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.”

Earlier this week, many outlets reported that Facebook had been abusing Apple’s enterprise app program for internal app distribution by having teens download a “research” app to their iPhone. Facebook reportedly paid the teens but gathered tons of private information and mobile data. Furthermore, Facebook did not disclose how much data they were gathering.

In order for this to work, Apple issues special certificates that allow companies to install more powerful apps on iPhone. This is only meant for employee apps and not traditional apps in the app store or “research” apps. Therefore, Facebook did not follow Apple’s guidelines, thus resulting in Apple revoking their access to the service.

In a statement by Apple to Recode, the app was a “clear breach of [Facebook’s] agreement with Apple.” It was reported that Facebook had been able to track users’ app history, their private messages, and their location data, and had data from users’ as young as 13. The company paid a sum of $20 per month, per user, to access this data.

Apple further responded to Recode with: “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.”

Facebook has long been the center of many scandals and may lead to many more issues down the line.

What is your stance on the situation? Do you feel that if Facebook paid you more for your data that you would take it? Do you think Apple did the right thing and revoke their license? Sound off in the comments.

You can read Apple’s full transparency report here.

Update, Jan 30th, 7:45 PM: The article was updated and some redundancies were removed from some paragraphs to make it more concise.

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Published by

Sid Ramirez

I usually write stuff, mostly Apple. Photographer, film major, environmentalist, techie.

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