TechCrunch reported Wednesday that Google was using an Apple-issued certificate that allows the company to create and build internal apps for its staff for one of its consumer-facing apps, called Screenwise Meter, in violation of Apple’s rules. The app was designed to collect an extensive amount of data from a person’s iPhone for research, but using the special certificate allowed the company to allow users to bypass Apple’s App Store. Google later apologized, and said that the app “should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake.”
It followed in the footsteps of Facebook, which we first reported earlier this week was also abusing its internal-only certificates for a research app — which the company used to pay teenagers to vacuum up their phone’s web activity.
Apple invalidating Google’s Enterprise Certificate mean its Screenwise Meter app won’t work for iPhones and nor will any other app for which the search giant relies on the certificate.
Apple has removed an app developed by Facebook from its ‘Developer Enterprise Program’ (DEP) after it was being distributed to young consumers to harvest personal data in exchange for cash.
Facebook has also seen its enterprise certificate stripped as a result, with Apple accusing the social media company of breaching the terms of membership of its programme by marketing a ‘Research’ app to children as young as 13.
Apple’s DEP allows developers to distribute beta versions of their applications to employees within their own organisations. As a result, these aren’t as stringently checked and regulated as apps that appear in the public-facing App Store.
But according to a TechCrunch investigation published earlier this week, Facebook had used this channel to distribute its Research VPN (virtual private network) to consumers to absorb swathes of user data, often in exchange for cash.
Facebook has removed Onavo Protect, its controversial VPN app, from Apple’s App Store following changes to its privacy rules.
The app is used to block online threats while browsing on your smartphone device and uses encryption to safeguard users. However, following a change to the rules around data collection that Apple imposes on applications hosted on its store, Facebook has pulled the app as Onavo also tracks the usage of other apps installed on a device.
The clash comes after Apple changed its App Store policies earlier this year to crack down on the practice of developers harvesting phone contact information and, without individual permissions, using the details gathered for marketing purposes.