Apple Shut Down All of Facebook's Internal Apps When Revoking Enterprise Certificate [Update: Fixed]

Facebook is no longer able to use or distribute important internal iOS apps after Apple disabled the Enterprise Certificate Facebook was abusing to surreptitiously gather data from iOS users right under Apple's nose.

Since 2016, Facebook has been paying teens and adults $20 per month to install a data gathering "Facebook Research" app that harvested all kinds of sensitive details from participants.

Facebook abused its enterprise certificate to get customers to install a "Facebook Research app

Apple had already banned Facebook's attempts to gather data through the Onavo VPN app, so Facebook used its enterprise certificate - provided to companies to install and manage internal apps for employees - to get participants to sideload the Facebook Research app, bypassing the App Store and Apple's oversight.

Facebook yesterday said that it was not violating Apple's enterprise rules, but as it turns out, Facebook was wrong. Apple this morning revoked Facebook's enterprise and said the social network had clearly violated the Enterprise Developer Program.

We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.

Facebook's revoked certificate wasn't just used for the Facebook Research app. According to The Verge, Facebook needed that certificate to run all of its internal apps, and with access revoked, none of those apps are working.

That means Facebook isn't able to distribute internal iOS apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger for testing purposes, and internal employee apps for purposes like food and transportation are nonfunctional.

All of the apps that used the certificate "simply don't launch on employees' phones anymore," and Facebook is said to be treating the issue as a critical problem internally.

After the certificate was revoked, Facebook this morning said that it would shut down its Facebook Research app, though the company defended it and claimed that those who participated went through a "clear on-boarding process." The Facebook Research app for Android continues to be available.

Facebook is not going to be able to properly operate and distribute iOS apps on a wide scale basis without access to its certificate, so it's not clear how this situation will play out. Apple's tools are essential for internal apps, though Facebook will likely still be able to use alternatives like TestFlight if the certificate isn't reinstated.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been highly critical of Facebook's lack of respect for user privacy in the past, and the two companies have had a dispute over the Onavo app, but this is the first time that Apple has directly punished Facebook and shut down one of its illicit activities.

Update: Facebook says it is "working closely" with Apple to reinstate access to internal apps. Employees, meanwhile, are said to be angry and unable to do their work without the apps.

Update 2: In a statement to The New York Times, Facebook says that Apple has restored its Enterprise Certificate. "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. To be clear, this didn’t have an impact on our consumer-facing services."

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
22 months ago
Good. Now Apple should pull their apps from the App Store until they have a written assurance from Facebook that their developer program privileges won't be abused again.

No other company or developer would get off this easily.
Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Delete Facebook
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Good on Apple. Facebook is a scumbag company. They deserve to go out of business and Zuckerberg deserves to have all his most intimate data shared with the world.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Seems a tad harsh. All they did was circumvent Apple's privacy guidelines… and harvest data for uninformed users at a fraction of the price it ought to be worth… to bolster their efforts to make Facebook and even more overpowered weapon of social intrusion.

Can't help but wonder how poor Mark took the news…

Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
I'd like to see Facebook banned and ousted from iOS
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
I was looking forward to this
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Top Stories: iOS 14 Feature Tour, 'iPhone 12 mini' Rumors, Apple Watch Band Controversy

Saturday September 26, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Things started to calm down a bit this week following last week's rush of media event, Apple Watch and iPad launches, and the release of iOS 14 and other operating updates. But that doesn't mean there wasn't still a lot of news, from digging deeper into iOS 14 to more iPhone 12 rumors to the uproar over trying to exchange band sizes on the new Apple Watch. On top of all of that, we heard...

'iPhone 12 mini' Name Reappears in Leaked Apple iPhone 12 Case Stickers

Friday September 25, 2020 1:58 am PDT by
Earlier this week a proven leaker claimed that the iPhone 12 lineup would be named "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max," and today the same nomenclature has appeared again in a photo depicting alleged stickers from unreleased Silicone iPhone cases originating from Apple's international distribution center in Ireland. The photo shows three stickers with the...

iOS 14: 'Phoenix 2' Space Shooter Delivers Playable Demo via App Clips

Saturday September 26, 2020 2:08 pm PDT by
One of the new features that arrived in iOS 14 is called App Clips. App Clips is described by Apple to be a "small part of your app" that can be available to users at just the right moment.App Clips focus on finishing one task quickly. An ideal App Clip experience allows users to open and complete a task in seconds. Instead of requiring an App Store download, they can be loaded and run via...

Apple Releases iOS 14.0.1 With Fix for Bug That Resets Default Apps After Rebooting

Thursday September 24, 2020 10:12 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 14.0.1, the first update to the iOS 14 operating system that was released on September 16. Today's update is a bug fix update addressing issues that weren't able to be fixed in the initial iOS 14 launch. The iOS 14.0.1 update is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General > Software Update. ...

Upcoming Xbox App Update Will Let Xbox Users Stream Games to iPhone and iPad

Friday September 25, 2020 11:58 am PDT by
Microsoft is testing a new version of its Xbox app that will let Xbox users play games remotely on their iPhones and iPads using streaming functionality. The new feature was rolled out to TestFlight users this morning. The Xbox streaming option is distinct from Microsoft's xCloud service, which it has been clashing with Apple over. xCloud is designed to stream games from Microsoft's servers, ...

Microsoft Internally Worked on a Mac OS X Aqua Inspired Windows XP Theme

Saturday September 26, 2020 10:51 am PDT by
Microsoft tested a Windows XP theme that closely resembled Mac OS X's Aqua GUI, reports The Verge. A recent Windows XP source code leak has revealed various unreleased themes that Microsoft developed in 2000, at a time when Microsoft was in heated competition with Apple regarding desktop operating systems. One of the themes, codenamed "Candy," mirrors the design of Apple's Aqua...

Video Offers Closer Look at Apple Face Mask

Friday September 25, 2020 5:25 am PDT by
YouTube channel Unbox Therapy has today shared a new video giving a closer look at Apple's reusable face masks for corporate and retail employees. Apple's own face mask was designed by the company's Engineering and Industrial Design teams amid the global health crisis for corporate and retail employees, and the boxes include Apple's famous "Designed by Apple in California" text. The...

iPhone 12 May Launch Earlier Than Usual in South Korea

Monday September 28, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
The upcoming iPhone 12 lineup may launch earlier than usual in South Korea, reports The Korea Herald. South Korean telecoms firms speaking to The Korea Herald have said that the iPhone 12 lineup will launch ahead of its usual schedule. Normally, the release of new iPhones in South Korea comes about one month after launch in the United States. Last year, the iPhone 11 arrived in South Korea ...

New Version of Microsoft Office Coming Next Year That Won't Require a Subscription

Thursday September 24, 2020 1:53 am PDT by
Microsoft will next year offer a new perpetual release of Microsoft Office for Mac and Windows that doesn't require a subscription to use, according to the software giant (via Windows Central). "Microsoft Office will also see a new perpetual release for both Windows and Mac, in the second half of 2021," said Microsoft in a blog post announcing the next version of its Exchange server,...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...