Yesterday Apple pulled Facebook's ability to distribute internal apps for employees on iOS in the wake of an investigation performed by TechCrunch, which alleged that Facebook was not only paying teenagers to use an app to record their activity, but that the app was also abusing Apple's Enterprise Developer Program to be distributed in the first place. In follow-up coverage, it was noted that Google was also using the same method to distribute a consumer-facing app called "Screenwise Meter," which Google subsequently pulled. Regardless, The Verge is reporting that Apple has pulled Google's certificate, just as it did Facebook's.
This change won't result in the generic Google Maps or YouTube apps being kicked from the App Store, but both Facebook and Google relied on the Enterprise Developer Program to distribute apps to employees internally — that's what the program was intended to be used for, effectively allowing them to sideload apps for internal use. But both companies had been found to be using the program to distribute applications directly to consumers, a very big no-no and a violation of Apple's developer policies.
Both of the apps in question did similar things: voluntarily gathering information about users that installed them. Although TechCrunch noted in its coverage that Google's privacy disclosure was much more up-front, the distinction is immaterial. The pair of apps were still violating Apple's policy when it comes to those enterprise certificates. Apple even told TechCrunch in a later statement, after pulling Facebook's certificate, that "we designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization," and that "any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked."
Apple has stood by that policy, as The Verge is reporting that Google's certificate has also been pulled, revoking the company's privilege to distribute internal employee apps, as well as pre-release "dogfood" testing versions.
It remains to be seen how or if either Facebook or Google can get back into Apple's good graces and rejoin the Enterprise Developer Program. In the meantime, no one is to blame for Google's problems but Google.
Both Facebook and Google can resume using their internal apps on iOS, according to The Verge and Buzzfeed. The existing certificates have been reinstated. Both Facebook and Google can return to business as usual, and employees of both companies can continue using beta, dogfooded, and internal apps on iOS.
Perhaps they'll think twice next time before distributing public apps with private enterprise certificates.
- The Verge