Apple restores Facebook’s ability to run internal iOS apps

Facebook said today that Apple has restored its enterprise certificate, the software permission that allows the social network to load internal mobile apps onto the devices of employees, beta testers, and research participants.

The move comes roughly one day after Apple blocked Facebook from using the program after a TechCrunch investigation revealed it had re-skinned its Onavo VPN app, pulled from the App Store last summer, as the “Facebook Research” app. Facebook was paying teenagers and adults $20 a month to use the app, which was not distributed through proper iOS channels and was instead sideloaded using Facebook’s enterprise certificate, to siphon sensitive smartphone data.

Facebook pulled the app in response to the backlash on Tuesday evening, but Apple blocked the company anyway because it was in “clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” the company said in a statement to Recode yesterday, to use the certificate in such a fashion. Earlier today, Apple did the same to Google, after it was revealed the search giant was performing a similar data-collection experiment called Screenwise Meter. (Google also disabled the service after its existence came to light.)

“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,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge in a statement.

So it seems the situation was relatively easy to remedy, and Google’s situation might be similarly resolved shortly. Yet the fallout from the initial revelation that Facebook was distributing an app that — in addition to gathering immense amounts of data on teens’ smartphone use for a small monetary payout — violated Apple’s enterprise developer rules has shaken the tech industry.

Given Apple’s privacy focus, and on the heels of the disastrous FaceTime bug revealed earlier this week, it’s looking like the iPhone maker is eager to defend the integrity of its platform and its position on user privacy and data security. Now, a number of other apps, from Amazon and DoorDash and others, that rely on sidestepping the App Store have now come to light, raising the possibility Apple may have to overhaul its enterprise developer program to avoid further misuse.