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Apple Bans Controversial Facebook Research App, Says It's A 'Clear Breach Of Agreement'

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After Facebook's newest data collection practice was exposed this week, Apple kicks out the Facebook Research app from its App Store on Wednesday.

Following this move, the Cupertino company has also revoked Facebook's other enterprise certificates, thus prohibiting app distribution outside the App Store.

TechCrunch first revealed Facebook's shady activity, just months after Apple banned its Onavo Protect app for violating guidelines.

'Breach Of Agreement'

The Facebook Research app is only available via Apple's Developer Enterprise Program. It lets software developers create apps that are meant to be distributed internally for testing purposes. In this case, only employees can download beta versions of apps from third-party services, and it's not supposed to be available to the general public.

Because the apps are distributed internally and are only meant for testing — unlike apps that are consumer-ready — Apple doesn't review and approve apps under the enterprise program.

However, to make the Facebook Research app available on the consumer level, the social media company found a workaround and used Apple's enterprise certificate to allow non-employees to access the app.

"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," an Apple representative said (via Mashable).

Other Facebook Apps Affected

The sanctions didn't end there, though. The Facebook Research app may be the main culprit here, but it seems Apple has revoked certificates of other Facebook-owned apps as well. This means that beta versions of Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram in iOS have also stopped working after Apple prohibited Facebook from running them internally.

This was confirmed by an anonymous source who told The Verge that dev versions of Facebook-owned apps in iOS don't launch in employees' phones anymore. Even an employee transportation app is not accessible as of this writing.

Though Facebook eventually pulled the plug on the Research app's iOS version, it has since tried to justify the app's existence, saying it was never a secret and was technically not "spying" on its users.

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