Facebook and Google used the mechanism to get regular people to install apps in the name of market research and in exchange for money. The search engine was utilizing its own VPN iOS app also being distributed to Google's users through Apple's Enterprise Developer Program.
However, what drove Facebook to distribute "Facebook Research", the app in question through unorthodox channels, looks to be that Apple has banned apps to gather user data as detailed as app history, private messages, and location, from being listed in the App Store. It accused the social network to sidestep Apple restrictions on data collection.
Apple said that Facebook had broken its rules and pulled the company's certificate until Thursday. On Thursday, Apple granted Facebook a new Enterprise Certificate, but the company now has to rebuild "a few dozen" apps, as Canahuat explained in his memo to employees.
Facebook's ranking as the best place to work in the USA takes a dive after 2018's scandals.
Apple has in the past revoked enterprise developer certificates from rogue developers who'd used them to distribute malicious iOS apps outside Apple's walled-garden. However, Facebook was abusing the system to distribute the iOS apps to consumers, Apple said. "To be clear, this didn't have an impact on our consumer-facing services".
According to a source from The Verge, the initial versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail and other beta applications (not yet released) have stopped working today, as have other internal applications for employees, such as a Gbus application for transport and Google's internal application for its coffee shops.
30 January 2019: TechCrunch reports that Google is running a similar program to Facebook's, called Screenrise Meter. That app also relied on an Apple certificate to run on iOS devices. This app is completely voluntary and always has been.
The Facebook Research app pays teenagers $20 for extensive access to their phone and web activity.
What should we take away from this brouhaha?
Facebook app for iOS users has been updated to version 206.0, and while it brings under the hood improvements for other iPhone users, it also introduces native higher resolution support. That's a big deal since Facebook publishes tools and future products to its own team to test before providing them to the public, said Marty Puranik, CEO and founder of cloud hosting company Atlantic.Net.
The divide between iOS and Android has never been more stark.
It appears Apple is not messing around and will gladly revoke certificates of any company - no matter how large - if it finds that company breaking the service terms of its program.
Many users don't value privacy highly.
"They have no problem flexing their power with us", he said. However, they had little expectation of privacy anyway, so they were willing to sell their data for a little money. Would that have happened-ever-for a smaller company?