Gambling, Porn Apps Elude Apple Policing through Its Enterprise Certificate Program

Another scandal involving Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program is brewing just a week after news broke that Google and Facebook had misused said program to avoid App Store rules and collect user data

TechCrunch reported yesterday that it has uncovered that the developers of two dozens of gambling and adult content apps have used the Enterprise Certificate program to escape Apple’s oversight and the traditional App Store and Cupertino’s safeguards designed to keep inappropriate content away from iOS.

Apple strictly prohibits the distribution of pornographic content on its app platform, while gambling apps are allowed but are monitored thoroughly due to the nature of the services they provide.

Generally speaking, the Apple Enterprise Certificate program allows companies to release internal user apps intended for their employees only. As these apps are only aimed to be used internally, their certification is faster and avoids the much more complex process of releasing content on Apple’s App Store.

In a detailed report on the topic, TechCrunch explained that a number of developers have managed to upload gambling apps as well as ones that feature adult content by using the Enterprise Certificate program. Such developers being able to release their content via Apple’s tool exposed serious weaknesses in Apple’s safeguards regarding the content featured on its platforms, the tech news outlet further pointed out in its article.

Apple Took Immediate Action

Apple has disabled some of the pornographic and gambling apps on the heels of the TechCrunch report, but many are still operational. In a statement, a spokesperson for the tech giant said that developers that “abuse [their] enterprise certificates are in violation of the Apple Developer Enterprise Program Agreement and will have their certificates terminated.”

The statement further read that if found inappropriate, the apps will be removed completely from Apple’s Developer Program, indicating that the company is working to shut down the still operational gambling and adult content apps.

The tech company’s rules for using the enterprise certification program state explicitly that apps released under that program are to be used internally among employees of one company or another and not to be distributed externally.

However, TechCrunch has spotted serious failures in the Enterprise Certificate program’s policing of the companies that apply to join it. In general, applying developers only need to fill out an online form and pay a $299 fee to Apple to join the program. The online form only asks developers to pledge that their apps would be used internally, to provide a D-U-N-S business ID number, and to update their Mac to the latest version available.

Apple then calls the businesses within one to four weeks to ask them to reconfirm that the apps will be used by employees only and that they are authorized to represent their business. Developers can thus easily hide their true identity and intentions and circumvent the much stricter App Store rules to distribute content that violates the tech giant’s policies.

TechCrunch broke the news last week that Facebook and Google have abused the Enterprise Certificate program and have distributed apps externally to collect data from their users for competitive purposes. Apple temporarily disabled the two companies’ internal apps, leaving their employees at a standstill for certain important operations.

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