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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