Google Collecting Data Through Apple's Enterprise Certificate Program, Just Like Facebook [Update: Google's Comment Added]

Update: Google has reached out to us with the following comment on the matter:

The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this app on iOS devices. This app is completely voluntary and always has been. We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time.”

Google has also been caught using apps through Apple's program that is used to deliver apps internally on its platform. Basically, these are normally apps that are being tested internally before they are pushed out to the general public, or these are apps that employees need to use to do their job and companies don't want them available on the App Store.

However, Google was exploiting that program, and this comes less than 24 hours after news broke that Facebook was doing it with an app that Apple banned from the App Store.

In Google's app - named Screenwise - it was inviting users that were 18 and older, to download the app by giving them a special code and registration process, that would use the Enterprise Certificate on their iPhone.

Screenwise launched back in 2012, it was a way for users to get things like gift cards by sideloading a VPN app onto their phone. This app would allow Google to see just about anything they did on their smartphone. The app was later renamed to Google Opinion Rewards, and available on Android as well, but the difference with Android is that Google was not exploiting the way the Play Store is used, versus exploiting the App Store on iPhone.

Google may not get as bad of a wrap as Facebook did here, since it is more upfront about what data is collecting from you. However, by offering monetary rewards for giving this information up, many users are going to care less about what they are giving up. As they see it as getting free money, for doing nothing different, really. And that's where the issue lies.

For Facebook, it was much more secretive about its app, having it distributed by another company, and pushing ads on platforms like Snapchat where teenagers are normally found. Not only exploiting Apple's rules, but also exploiting teenagers as young as 13. Since that story broke last night, Apple has revoked its Enterprise Certificate. Meaning that all of its internal apps no longer work. Which is a really big deal for Facebook (or any technology company). As those internal apps are used to test out code and features before they are pushed out to everyone using the app.

It's unclear if Apple will do the same thing with Google that it did to Facebook. But it is a possibility. Apple may look at it and see that Google was a bit more upfront about what it was collecting and why it was collecting it. And not being so secretive as Facebook, and possibly give Google a pass. Though we'll have to wait and find out.

What is more likely to happen though, is that Apple is going to begin investigating every company that uses its Enterprise Certificate and make sure that it is not using it for nefarious purposes. Seeing as Apple clearly states that these certificates are to be used only for apps that are being used by employees of the company, since they are not being reviewed by the App Store or Apple.

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About the Author

Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]