It appears that Facebook was not the only one abusing Apple’s system for distributing employee-only apps to sidestep the App Store and collect extensive data on users.
Google has been running an app called Screenwise Meter, which bears a strong resemblance to the app distributed by Facebook Research that has now been barred by Apple. Quite clearly, Google Screenwise Meter for iOS appears to violate Apple’s policy.
This states, in essence, that the Enterprise Certificate program for distributing apps without the App Store or Apple’s oversight is only for internal employee-only apps.
Google walks users through how to install the Enterprise Certificate and VPN on their phone. Developers seeking to do external testing on iOS are supposed to use the TestFlight system that sees apps reviewed and limits their distribution to 10,000 people.
In its app, Google invites users aged 18 and up (or 13 if part of a family group) to download the app by way of a special code and registration process using an Enterprise Certificate.
That’s the same type of policy violation that led Apple to revoke Facebook’s iOS Developer Certificate, which had the knock-on effect of also disabling usage of Facebook’s legitimate employee-only apps — which run on the same Facebook Enterprise Certificate — and making Facebook look (again) very dodgy in the process.
Unlike Facebook, Google is much more upfront about how its research data collection programs work, what’s collected and that it’s directly involved. It also gives users the option of “guest mode” for when they don’t want traffic monitored, or someone younger than 13 is using the device.
Google has announced it will remove Screenwise Meter from Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program and disable it on iOS devices. The company said in a statement:
“The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologise. We have disabled this app on iOS devices. This app is completely voluntary and always has been.
We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time.”