Apple has now shut down Google’s ability to distribute its internal iOS apps, following a similar shutdown that was issued to Facebook earlier this week. A person familiar with the situation tells The Verge that early versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and other pre-release beta apps have stopped working today, alongside employee-only apps like a Gbus app for transportation and Google’s internal cafe app.
“We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon,” says a Google spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. Apple has not yet commented on the situation.
There are two sides to this story. One the one hand, I’m glad Apple is taking measures and revoking some of these companies’ developer rights. These kinds of privacy-invading apps are a terrible idea, even if people get paid for them, and no platform should allow them. On the other hand, though, I would much rather have such tactics be wholly illegal on a national level, since leaving such decisions in the hands of easily corruptible corporrations – see Apple and China – is a recipe for disaster.
I do think the free market has gone too far and I believe in restricting companies from putting products on the market that people shouldn’t use. But the limits are very difficult:
Should you be allowed to participate in (paid) drug-experiments?
Should you be allowed to not wear seatbelts?
Should you be allowed to not vaccinate your children? Are you responsible for infecting others?
Should you be allowed to run insecure software in your home? In your company?
“Should you be allowed to shoot yourself in the foot?” Would doctors be required to treat you afterwards?
Should Apple have the option to make “employee-only apps like a Gbus app for transportation and Google’s internal cafe app.” stop working?
Having said that, this was all done with user consent, and the policy is clear about the extent of the data collection. Even though I’m deeply privacy conscious — and believe it’s a human right — I see this as very different from the sort of passive and opaque data collection that Google and other companies are conducting elsewhere.
As a person who roots for the right to load any app you want (one of the reasons I chose Android is the ability to load any apk I want), I believe Apple shouldn’t have the right to tell iOS users what to run on devices they paid for. Period.