Apple Bans Distribution of Facebook’s Internal Apps (Updated)

Posted on January 31, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Social with 17 Comments

Update: Apple has apparently restored Facebook’s access to the Enterprise Developer Program, allowing the company to distribute internal apps again. The move comes just shortly after the company was reported to have blocked Google for the same reason. “We have had our Enterprise Certification, which enables our internal employee applications, restored. We are in the process of getting our internal apps up and running. To be clear, this didn’t have an impact on our consumer-facing services,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge. It’s likely Google will have its access restored soon, too.

Original story follows.

The big news in the tech industry yesterday was a secret Facebook app that paid teenagers in exchange for their data. TechCrunch reported that the company signed up users aged 13-35 years for the secret Facebook Research app, which gave them access to the user’s privacy.

Facebook was quick to announce the shutdown of the program following the backlash.

And it’s just got itself into a much bigger problem: Apple. Apple has reportedly banned Facebook’s distribution of iOS apps, according to Recode. The company is currently unable to distribute internal, early versions of its apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram to developers and employees internally.

The reason? Well, Facebook actually used Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program for the company’s Facebook Research program. And that program is only meant for internal distribution of apps — not for research purposes, or paying users in exchange for their privacy. Rightly so, Apple is very pissed off.

“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 company said in a statement.

The company has now revoked Facebook’s developer certificates, which means Facebook is no longer able to distribute any of its other internal apps to employees — including the Research app, of course. It’s not clear if Facebook will be allowed back into the program with new certificates, and whether Apple will change its mind.

For Facebook, this is a big deal. The company used the Enterprise Developer Program to distribute early versions of its apps to developers and employees, and it’s the main way the company tested new features. Going forward, if Apple doesn’t change its mind and provide Facebook with new certificates, the company will have a lot of trouble distributing these new features internally before rolling them out to the public. And that could really slow down the development of Facebook’s products.

Considering Apple’s commitment to privacy lately, it’s unlikely the company will let this pass. Facebook and Apple don’t have a very good relationship, and this latest incident makes things worse.

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Apple Bans Distribution of Facebook’s Internal Apps (Updated)”

  1. Thomas Parkison

    As Nelson from the Simpsons would say...


    Couldn't have happened to a nastier bunch of scumbags.

  2. nbplopes

    The title is misleading and entices hate speach. That is not what Apple has done.

    This is a discuting way to win tech wars.

  3. AnOldAmigaUser

    Yup, the folks at Facebook and Google just clicked "yes" to the TOS and EULA, just as they count on their users to do.

  4. martinusv2

    How many millions Facebook had to pay to get back access? Seem to me, Apple is easy to forgive ;)

  5. Thom77

    Apple seemed to have no problem with data collecting internal Apps from Facebook when Obama used one during the 2012 campaign that collected data from the downloaders friends list too without their knowledge nor permission.

    Funny how that works.

  6. dontbe evil

    also google...not that I'm surprised:

  7. pecosbob04

    Up over 11% in after hours after a 4+% gain during the day!

  8. lvthunder

    Google admits they have an app that does the exact same thing. Shocking that everyone is talking bad about Facebook yet Google gets a complete pass.

  9. ben55124

    Hey facebook, if you happen to have some idle testers, would you mind having them try out our facetime beta.

  10. provision l-3

    Facebook seems hell bent on doing as much self inflicted harm as possible.

  11. chrisrut

    Geesh. I did some really dumbass stuff back in the day, but...

  12. rossdelliott

    We had made an app for a school for students and we had to jump through hurdles to get Apple to approve the Enterprise cert for this purpose. The agreement makes it's very clear that you cannot use it to distribute it to those outside your organization, so yeah, Facebook violated that. They probably should've put some thought into this and just gotten another Enterprise certificate instead of using the same one for everything. Also, they shouldn't be such a terrible company, but that's not against Apple's Terms of Use.

  13. BrianEricFord

    I’m not sure I buy Facebook’s claim that they voluntarily ended the program given the follow-up news about Apple’s action regarding their certificates.

    Seems like the dumped claiming they did the dumping.

  14. rm

    That is what you call a bad day in the office! Another major slap down for Facebook continually not respecting privacy or in this case failing to protect kids from themselves. Because lets face it, adults would have a hard time understanding how this data could be used against them, in say, the next presidential election . . .

    This program had to get the approval from the executives at Facebook.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to RM:

      The program also had to get written approval from the kids parents. Those people knew exactly what they were giving up. They were instructed to screenshot and send in their Amazon orders page.

  15. YouWereWarned

    In response to the seems Apple's desire to hold the high ground was short-lived. Way to gut it out, Tim! Always assumed your lawyers were bigger than theirs.