Two recent investigations performed by TechCrunch have revealed that both Facebook and Google were violating the terms of Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program.
In return, Apple shut down both tech giant’s internal iPhone and iPad software apps on Wednesday. Being unable to access critical internal apps largely halted the operations of both companies, though Apple did restore their systems the next day.
This display of power comes as a pointed warning from Apple regarding their policies, and a stark reminder of how much control the company holds over Silicon Valley.
How Google and Facebook got in Trouble
Apple’s enterprise program allows companies to distribute in-house apps for Apple devices without needing to go through the Apple app store. Enrolling in the program requires companies to verify their legal status and pay an annual fee of $299.
This can be very useful for businesses that want to create and share company tools without needing to endure any lengthy approval processes, or make their applications public. However, enterprise apps are only permitted for employee use, and that’s where Google and Facebook broke the rules.
Both companies distributed apps (Google’s Screenwise Meter and Facebook’s Research) that asked users to share information from their phones, with those who opted-in being compensated. Each app also required users to perform a manual installation rather than using the app store, violating the enterprise terms.
But when you look at both Facebook and Google, the severity of the cases between them differ by quite a bit.
Google’s Sceenwise app did ask users to collect data for research purposes, though the range of information it could gather was limited. For example, Screenwise could not access any form of a user’s encrypted data. This includes apps and websites that are protected by HTTPS (which most are).
As of now, the app is no longer online, with Google disabling it immediately after their breach of Apple’s policy came to light. Google apologized in a recent statement, expressing that they never intended for the app to operate under Apple’s enterprise program. They also mentioned the app’s function and purpose has always been upfront, and that users can opt out as they please.
Unlike Google’s counterpart, Facebook’s app had much greater reach. It was designed to access all encrypted data outgoing from a device to provide Facebook insights into most of their users’ activity. Those who opted-in were reportedly paid $20 a month for supplying a constant stream of info on how their phones are used.
According to a statement by Apple, the company banned the Research app shortly before Facebook pulled it down themselves.
Continuing Issues with Data Collection
With the GDPR changing the way data privacy is being approached worldwide, it’s safe to assume that this won’t be the last we hear about these companies’ questionable data collection methods.