Apple unblocks Google’s internal apps on iOS devices

google-hq-sede-mountain-view.jpg

Google and Apple faced off this week over privacy.


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple temporarily prevented Google from running its internal apps for employees on iPhones and iPads this week — a move similar to the one it took against Facebook.

Apple’s actions followed a report Wednesday that Google’s Screenwise Meter app, launched in 2012, invited users 18 and older outside the company to earn gift cards in exchange for letting Google monitor and analyze their data. Apple revoked but later restored Google’s Enterprise Certificate so its internal apps are functioning again.

“Our internal corporate apps have now been restored,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. 

The block came because Google sidestepped the App Store and took advantage of Apple’s developer enterprise program, which is designed to let companies internally distribute apps, TechCrunch reported Wednesday.

In response to Wednesday’s report, Google had said it’s shutting down the Screenwise Meter app on iOS devices.

But that move didn’t placate Apple, which presumably revoked Google’s Enterprise Certificate for violating the terms. This means that any apps Google was distributing to employees internally, including beta versions of products, stopped working. Those include early versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, as well as apps for Google’s buses and cafe.

Apple didn’t return a request for comment on the restoration of the Enterprise Certificate. Bloomberg reported the news late Thursday.

Apple’s block on Google’s internal apps is similar to the penalty it gave Facebook after reports surfaced earlier this week that the social network was using Apple’s enterprise developer program to distribute a market research app to consumers. Facebook was paying $20 a month to people between the ages of 13 and 35 in exchange for their phone and web activity.

The data-gathering apps by Google and Facebook are the latest cause for scrutiny of tech company privacy practices. Last year, Facebook was hammered for failing to protect the personal information of its more than 2 billion users after news emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a UK consultancy, had acquired data without users’ knowledge. Similarly, Google has been criticized for how it collects location data on Android phones. 

First published Jan. 31, 2:10 p.m. PT.
Updates, Feb. 1 at 6:56 a.m.: Adds report that Apple has unblocked Google’s internal apps; 9:38 a.m.: Includes confirmation from Google.

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