Chaos has reportedly erupted inside Facebook as employees find themselves unable to open the company's apps on their iPhones

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Mark ZuckerbergAP

  • Apple has blocked Facebook's internal apps from working on employees' phones, The Verge reports.
  • The move is in response to recent revelations that Facebook was misusing Apple's enterprise app program, meant for internal use, to run a research app that gathered consumer's phone activity in exchange for payment.
  • Facebook has since said it's shutting down the app, which paid people (including teens) up to $20 a month to install a VPN used to track data and activity.
  • Facebook employees told Cheddar they think the company is being "unfairly targeted" by Apple.

Facebook's thousands of employees are reportedly unable to use the company's internal iOS apps after it was caught running a data-gathering research app that violated Apple's developer policies.

On Tuesday, Apple revoked Facebook's security certificate that gives it access to a special enterprise program, which companies can use to distribute internal apps and tools outside of the public App Store.

The move has caused internal Facebook apps to stop working, according to The Verge, a chaotic situation that the company has deemed a "critical problem." Company apps for transportation and the lunch menu, along with beta versions of Facebook apps like Messenger and Instagram, are reportedly unable to be opened by Facebook employees.

While that has made for a hectic day for Facebook employees, Apple's removal of Facebook's security certificate hasn't affected the public's ability to download and use the Facebook app on iOS devices.

How it all started

The two tech companies have clashed before, but this latest incident was sparked by TechCrunch's report on Tuesday that revealed Facebook has quietly been running an app called Facebook Research that tracks people's mobile phone activity and web traffic in exchange for compensation.

Through the program, dubbed "Project Atlas" internally, Facebook paid teens and adults up to $20 a month to install a smartphone VPN - a sort of middleman software for connecting to the internet - that gave the company access to each participant's trove of personal data. The program included teens age 13 to 17 who were were able to participate with parental consent that was as simple as ticking off a checkbox, according to TechCrunch.

Since Apple has a ban on such apps that collect this sort of data, Facebook circumvented these policies by misusing its enterprise program, which Apple clearly states is only supposed to be used by employees for internal use. Participants in Facebook's research program were instructed to "sideload" the Facebook Research app, a process for downloading apps outside of Apple's App Store.

Read more: Facebook got caught paying people $20 a month to let them spy on their phones

Facebook initially defended the research program and maintained it would keep it running, but the company later said it had shut down the iOS app, a statement that Apple contradicted hours later when it announced it had removed Facebook's security certificate. In a statement to Business Insider, Facebook said
"there was nothing secret" about its research program, a characterization of the app and program that Josh Constine, the reporter of the TechCrunch article, pushed back on. Facebook has yet to respond to questions about whether it would also shut down the research program on Android devices.

These reports have only served to escalate tensions between Apple and Facebook. Facebook employees told Cheddar they thought their company was being "unfairly targeted" by Apple's shutdown of internal Facebook apps.

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