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Apple has now disabled Google’s beta and internal iOS apps [Updated]

Apple has now disabled Google’s beta and internal iOS apps [Updated]
[Photo: Koby Kelsey/Unsplash]

This story has been updated with quotes from the companies and news that Apple has now restored Facebook’s developer certificate.

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As it did to Facebook earlier this week, Apple has now revoked a certificate that allows Google to run pre-production and internal iOS apps.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, The Verge’s Tom Warren reports that pre-release versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and other pre-release beta apps stopped working Thursday. Employee-only apps including the Gbus iOS transportation app and the company’s internal cafe app have also conked out.

Apple did this because Google had released a research app called Screenwise Meter that monitored virtually everything the user does on their phone. But rather than being available through the App Store, the app relied on an Apple developer certificate to run. Apple’s policy says the certificate should be used only for internal apps and app testing. Google disabled the app Wednesday after news coverage of it appeared.

“We are working together with Google to help them reinstate their enterprise certificates very quickly,” Apple said in a statement Thursday.

Google’s statement said the same thing: “We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon.”

Apple revoked the same kind of certificate from Facebook Wednesday for the same reasons. The social network had been paying adults and teens to install a social media research app called Facebook Research that monitored users’ browsing, calling, and shopping activities on their phones, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reported on Tuesday evening. That app also relied on an Apple certificate to run on iOS devices.

Facebook said Wednesday it was working with Apple to correct the problem and get its certificate restored. The company announced Thursday that that had happened. “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,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “To be clear, this didn’t have an impact on our consumer-facing services.”

It did, however, cause Facebook employees some real headaches on Wednesday.

They’re likely to cause a certain amount of chaos at Google, too.

The revocations this week seem to trace the battle lines between the two major forces in the current data privacy debate. Apple has taken a tough stand on the issue, saying tech companies should protect the privacy of user data, not seek to harvest it and profit from it. Facebook and Google, meanwhile, have built their entire businesses on monetizing their users’ activity through advertising.

On one level, Apple’s actions against Facebook and Google are simply the enforcement of its developer policies. But they also give the company the opportunity to cast itself as a guardian of privacy—a major component of its current messaging to consumers—and embarrass other tech giants. Which makes it a win for Apple—and a loss for Facebook and Google—on multiple fronts.

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