Apple restores Facebook's permission to run internal apps after privacy fight

The social network clashed with Apple over a data-collecting app used for market research.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
2 min read
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Apple has restored Facebook's permission to run iPhone apps used and tested internally by the social media giant's employees.

The iPhone maker yanked Facebook's enterprise certificates after it discovered that the social network sidestepped the review process for consumer apps. Instead, Facebook went through through a program that allows companies to create apps for their employees to use and test.

Facebook subsequently distributed the Facebook Research app to iPhone users, paying some people as much as $20 per month to access a user's phone and web activity for market research. The software gave Facebook access to user data including web searches, location data and private messages.

The problems with Apple comes as Facebook slogs through a series of scandals that have called into question leadership of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. The New York Times reported the two executives ignored warnings and deflected blame as Facebook's scandals mounted. 

The social network has also faced criticism for not doing enough to protect the data privacy and security of its 2.3 billion users. Facebook reportedly giving other tech companies more access to user data than originally disclosed and suffered a software bug that exposed the photos of up to 6.8 million people to third-party app developers. Cambridge Analytica, a UK political consultancy, also harvested the data of up to 87 million users without their permission. 

Initially, Apple blocked Facebook from offering the Facebook Research app to iPhone users. It then revoked Facebook's enterprise certificates, which affected apps that employees used internally including a workplace version of Facebook and an app to hail rides. Apple's decision also impacted Facebook's ability to test new features that hadn't been released yet to consumers.

"We have had our Enterprise Certification, which enables our internal employee applications, restored," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday. "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." 

Facebook wasn't the only company that ran afoul of Apple's rules for developers. Apple also prevented Google from running apps used by the search giant's employees. The decision came after Google pulled its Screenwise Meter app from Apple devices. Like Facebook, Google bypassed Apple's review process for consumer apps by going through a program that lets companies distribute app internally. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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