Apple spanks Facebook and Google for distributing iOS apps outside the App Store

Apple spanks Facebook and Google for distributing iOS apps outside the App Store
The other day, Apple stopped Facebook's internal iOS apps from running on iOS devices. These include early versions of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and other beta apps, along with one used by Facebook employees for transportation. Apple's motive for blocking these apps from working was to punish the company; Facebook used Apple's internal app distribution program to disseminate "Facebook Research." The latter is a VPN app that gives Facebook users $20 a month in exchange for root access to participants' phones.

Today, it turns out that Apple has also blocked Google's internal iOS apps. A person with knowledge of the situation spoke with The Verge and told them that beta versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and others could no longer be accessed. Other apps blocked include a transportation app for Google employees called Gbus, and an app for Google's internal cafe.

UPDATE: Both Facebook and Google have had their certificates returned to them by Apple. In a statement, Facebook wanted to point out that its consumer based apps were never impacted by Apple's actions.

Google is apparently being punished for an app it distributed called Screenwise Meter. This VPN app offers iOS and Android users gift cards in return for giving up certain data. Google has since disabled the app on iOS. Like Facebook did with its "Research" app, the Screenwise Meter app was distributed using Apple's enterprise certificate; the certificate is supposed to be used for employee apps only. Public betas are supposed to be available through Apple's TestFlight platform, and other public iOS apps are only allowed to be distributed by the App Store.

The information that Google was able to obtain from iPhone users through the Screenwise Meter app include "the sites you visit, the apps you use, the television shows that play on your television, information about how you use them, device IP address, and cookies...we learn what times of day you browse the internet or watch TV, how long you stay on websites/apps, what types of websites, apps, and TV programs are popular (or not), and how you interact with media when there is more than one screen vying for your attention." Google says that it uses this information to see how people use their services, and to improve Google apps "like YouTube, Assistant, Android, and Google Play; create better ad experiences, which help us keep Google services free for everyone."


With Apple blocking Facebook and Google's internal iOS apps, both companies must stop development of their apps for Apple's mobile platform. Of course, if everyone kisses and makes up, that work will be able to resume.

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23 Comments

1. Busyboy

Posts: 731; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

It's nice to see a tech company actually care about its users privacy. Glad Apple shrugged off Google's "apology" and applied punishment evenly.

4. RebelwithoutaClue

Posts: 5473; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Now if only they cared enough about users and support the right to repair yourself instead of abusing every trick in the book to block repairs on their equipment

8. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

Busyboy if Apple actually cared, then Apple would have never allowed Google's Screenwise Meter iOS on their app store on the first place. Especially since that app has been their since 2012. It wasn't hiding anything, and was up front as well with anyone using it. I think when Apple starts to look bad in the public's eye for doing shady things themselves, like the FaceTime thing that lets anyone eve's drop in to hear or see what's going on a unsuspecting users iPhone. Then Apple has to do something to bolster the public opinion of themselves. Like put others under the bus, and move the focus away from them, and place it on others. Also busyboy if anyone believes in that crappy ad that Apple placed in Las Vegas "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.". That's a joke. Apple users have to ask themselves this simple question, especially if they own a HomePod. What happens when you ask a HomePod to read your messages? Messages that are on your iPhone. The HomePod is getting those messages from your iPhone and reading them out loud to you. So the data is encrypted and transmitted over the internet from your iPhone, to your HomePod. I guess Apple's privacy is meant for the gullible, and ignorant.

13. nepalisherpa

Posts: 334; Member since: Jul 17, 2015

You do realize that Screenwise app was not being ditstributed through Appstore, right?

17. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

You do realize that app was around since 2012, right? Why did Apple go after Google at this moment in time? Why not wait longer, or better yet, why didn't Apple do it sooner than 2019? Why at this exact moment in time? Could it be that Apple's FaceTime debacle is much worse, and there is even class action lawsuits against Apple right now, because of that FaceTime crap. Btw that only happened before Apple went after Google and Facebook for violating Apple's security and privacy policies, that Apple has put in place. Yet those apps have been there for years. Hmm, could it be that Apple is always trying to push their privacy crap down everyones throat. Yet Apple's FaceTime is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone on any device, especially in terms of security and privacy. So I believe Apple is trying to bolster their loyal sheeple, and make them look at someone else, or in other words have the world take the focus off of Apple, and the smell coming off of themselves. Hey every body, look at evil Google and Facebook everyone. Come on everyone look at these evil companies are in violation of our privacy policies, that Apple has put in place themselves. Is everyone now looking at the others? See world what Facebook and Google did, they are in violation of our policies. They could have done it anytime from 2012 to this time in 2019. But Apple waited until this timeframe. See everyone Apple is good again, because we have taken your attention off of us in a negative way and now turned it into a positive for Apple again. Only because we are making others look bad in the news right now. Which company again has a recent class action lawsuit because of a breach of security, and their customers privacy was violated? Oh, that's right it is Apple.

20. nepalisherpa

Posts: 334; Member since: Jul 17, 2015

Maybe this app has been around since 2012, but they probably didn't realize how Google was using it until now (esp after Facebook crap came out).

21. thedizzle

Posts: 187; Member since: Oct 05, 2017

im pretty sure in the other article they posted yesterday, they said google was more upfront on what the app was doing.

22. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

Okay, isn't Apple in control of their own ecosystem, and watches over any and all iOS apps? So are you telling everyone here that Apple isn't in control of their own app ecosystem? Or maybe that privacy and security crap that Apple spews all the time to the public is just that, total crap? Hmm, so if Apple is all about privacy and security, then how did a specific bug like Apple's FaceTime bug get into the public, especially since October 2018? Hmmm? In any case look at the ad that Apple place during the CES show. "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.". Does anyone really believe in that crap? If you own a HomePod and ask it to read your messages, then ask yourself were those messages exist. They exist on your iPhone. So when you talk to your HomePod, it reads the data from your iPhone, and transmits it over the internet to your HomePod. So I guess Apple was talking about privacy and security to the gullible and ignorant customers.

10. worldpeace

Posts: 3074; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Yes they care, that's why average users (like you and me) can't even use screenwise on Android. "Volunteers are recruited for these panels who agree to have their Internet activities measured, and are rewarded for their participation. Prior to participating, all panelists have a clear understanding and agreement with Google about what involvement in the panels means." -Google All of their participant already give their consent about all data they'll share with Google and facebook. It doesn't effect average Facebook/Google's users privacy.

11. worldpeace

Posts: 3074; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

And this Apple-supporter site keep cornering Google and Facebook, while trying to help iPhone sales, lol..

14. lyndon420

Posts: 6364; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Pleeeease....this a marketing ploy to restore apple's reputation in the stockmarket. For some reason this company gets special treatment, but in the end they're nothing more or less than anyone else. Apple needs FB and Google... don't let this article fool you.

15. lyndon420

Posts: 6364; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Puppet.

19. ssallen

Posts: 100; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

For a couple hours? I'm sure Google is shaking in their boots. Question genius, why didn't Apple lay down the law when Google broke the TOS SIX YEARS ago? Seems to be odd that they waited until the news was full of Apple's earnings miss and Facetime security nightmare, huh?

2. Raito

Posts: 77; Member since: Aug 15, 2014

Anndd let’s see how Android fans react on comment section

3. Panzer

Posts: 270; Member since: May 13, 2016

Waiting, hoping and praying my preordered Librem 5 Linux phone is not a complete bust. Hate Google, hate Apple a little more. Was that a sufficient reaction.

6. RebelwithoutaClue

Posts: 5473; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Pretty easy, they overstepped the rules made by Apple and got punished rightfully so. Do I think they went too far in general, meh, especially Google (but also FB) was clear what the app did. If people were willing to give up their privacy for 20 bucks or some gift cards, their choice.

9. DnB925Art

Posts: 1165; Member since: May 23, 2013

Why? It doesn't affect me or any Android apps I use on my phone. It doesn't even affect development of said beta apps on Android. So again, why should I care with what happened on iOS?

5. JRPG_Guy

Posts: 92; Member since: Jan 13, 2019

Great news

7. Vogue1985

Posts: 311; Member since: Jan 24, 2017

Can only imagine what else those app are collecting and fishing. What you talk about,what you bought and etc (PG version). If you give a company these to have one cookie,they will eat the whole box, careful. Imagine what Huawei was doing with a similiar skim,its not wonder you see them taking pics with Iphones to advertise their phone? Fishy fishyyyyy

12. worldpeace

Posts: 3074; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

They'll get sued if they collect more than what they write on user agreement. Screenwise is research panels, you can't just download the app and use it, you'll need to be their registered panelist first. "Volunteers are recruited for these panels who agree to have their Internet activities measured, and are rewarded for their participation. Prior to participating, all panelists have a clear understanding and agreement with Google about what involvement in the panels means." -Google (And there's still no proof/solid evidence on Huawei case)

16. RebelwithoutaClue

Posts: 5473; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Apple already allowed Google & Facebook to use that certificate again and publish their own apps. A ban for a whole day lol https://twitter.com/mhbergen/status/1091168798856556544

18. ssallen

Posts: 100; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Actual Story: Apple pulls cert on Google SIX YEARS after infraction to create news to cover up their earnings miss and horrific Facetime privacy bug.

23. psigate

Posts: 25; Member since: Sep 24, 2012

Wonder what happens if facebook and Google withdraws from Apple?

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