While most experts and regular players were focused on how Google and Facebook were failing to block inappropriate content in their stores, great minds, standing behind Apple, also made some mistakes and let some adult content and gambling apps to get to their marketplace. However, let’s sort everything out step-by-step.
Fair developers, who do not represent any companies and just want to distribute their legal and tested apps via AppStore, should register as the iOS developers, pay the annual fee of 99$, and receive a corresponding certificate via XCode. Of course, each newly-establishing application is thoroughly checked by Apply with a view to compliance with the rules set by the company. Most developers often get several rejections before their app or game is published. Luckily, all the rules are described in the Apple Store Review Guidelines so that the developers can properly test and prepare their products for the audit by Apple. For the companies, in turn, Apple offers the so-called Apple Developer Enterprise Program, with the help of which they can distribute their in-house applications, without uploading and publishing them in AppStore. This is where all the problems start.
How Illegal Content Appears in Apple AppStore?
According to the Apple Developer Enterprise Program, all the “enterprise” applications should target only employees of the company, which uses the program. However, some sneaky software developing companies found a loophole, which allows them to distribute the modified versions of popular games and applications. More than that, these companies are not even ashamed to recognize the fact that they are offering modified apps. A shining example is AppValley, which published a modified version of the world-know music app - Spotify. They even modified the name of the original program - Spotify++. Tutu App is another software developer that takes advantage of the Apple Developer Enterprise Program. They have released a number of tweaked and modified apps. These include a free version of Minecraft, which costs somewhere around 7$ in AppStore, Pokemon Go, with a lot of features unlocked, and even Instagram++, which has some extra functions that are not available in the original version.
The question is - if all these apps are free of charge and do not require you to pay for unlocking extra features, then what is the interest for these companies? Everything is much easier than you may think. The gain profit by offering “Premium” versions of their modified apps, which (as they say) work more stable than free versions. The logic is that users, who have downloaded their apps, get used to those products and start buying the premium packages in order to feel all the advantages. The availability of such apps makes it more difficult for fair developers to earn money by selling their products. However, this is only half of the problem.
There are several unfair developers that found the way to sign up to the AppStore under completely different business names and upload apps, which do not coincide with the main purposes of the company. Some of them were releasing iPhone casino apps under the “Entertainment” categories, which a direct violation of the Apple Certificate Agreement terms.
Apple doesn’t give any official comments on how these apps could get into the Enterprise Program, but its spokesman assures that the company works on it, and all the developers that are abusing the terms of the Enterprise Program will be removed from it in the near future.
Facebook VS Apple - How They Buy Your Private Data?
In February 2019, it turned out that such respectable and world-famous companies as Facebook and Google were also abusing the terms of the Apple Enterprise Program. Believe it or not, there’s even documentary evidence of it.
Starting from 2016, Facebook was distributing the “Facebook Research” app in AppStore via the Enterprise Program. This is considered to be a data-collecting app, which can get access to all web activity of a regular user. Moreover, Facebook was paying around 20$ each month to all customers who agreed to share their private information. There were also instances when Facebook asked users to provide screenshots of their Amazon order history. When these facts surfaced, Facebook immediately deleted this app from AppStore without explaining any reasons for such a move.
Of course, Facebook is definitely guilty in this situation, but where were the specialists from Apple? How could they let a data-collection app get into their store and even be there for 2 years? It still remains in a secret. At least, they did revoke all Facebook’s certificates within the Enterprise Program, meaning that the later would no longer be able to distribute enterprise apps.
What Should App Stores Do to Get Rid Of Illegal Content?
The biggest mistake of Apple is that it doesn’t test or review the apps from the Enterprise Program in the way it does for the regular AppStore apps. The reason for that is that Enterprise apps are supposed to be downloaded and used only by the employees of the company that uploaded an Enterprise app. They could revise their Apple Developer Enterprise Program Agreement terms and set some strict rules for reviewing Enterprise products.
Google, in turn, should definitely revise its age rating system since there are many violent games and gambling apps that are available even for kids. Besides, it could improve their sign up procedure in Google Play. As of now, any kid or teenager can easily lie about their age and receive access to all Google products without any limitations.
Both Apple’s and Google’s App Stores could also hire some more specialists, who would work on reviewing all the uploading apps and decided whether they comply with their policy and whether they match what is written in their description. Hopefully, one day, we will not have to worry about our children while they are navigating around App Stores and looking for some game to enjoy.