Electronic Frontier Foundation Skips iOS Over Issues with Apple’s Developer Agreement

Posted by at 12:03 am on January 8, 2015

Internet advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new app, allowing Android users an easy way to access its action center and get involved. As part of the announcement, the organization explained there would not be a similar app for iOS, citing issues with the Apple developer agreement. Some elements of the disputed agreement have been around since 2010.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

The EFF’s issues with the standard Apple developer agreement start with a complaint about Section 10.4, which the groups says bans developers from making public statements about the contract — in spite of the fact that the document is does not fall under “Apple Confidential Information” (as defined in Section 10.1). If a developer is having an issue with their app as a result of something in the agreement, they are contractually obligated not to explain the situation to their customers.

The EFF also believes Sections 6.1, 7.7, and 8 hinder developers from protecting their users, and controlling their own products. Section 6.1 states that any patches or bug fixes to an app must be approved by Apple. The group says this creates an issue in which a security update could be required, and if Apple is unable to approve the update in a timely manner (say, over the Christmas break), users’ security could be put at risk.

It is worth noting that no situation like the one imagined by the EFF has come up with the exception of Apple’s own iOS updates, and that the company has a track record of being responsive to app security updates. It should also be mentioned that if Apple were to remove Section 6.1 and relinquish approval of patches, it would create a situation where malware or spyware could easily be introduced, as often happens on the Android platform.

Section 8 indicates that Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any application at any time.” Back in 2008, Steve Jobs confirmed this “kill switch” will allow Apple to delete apps already installed on devices, saying it only be used as a last resort for a security issue. It has never been used.

Section 7.3 locks the developer into distributing their iOS app through the iTunes store, so if a developer uses Apple’s SDK to develop their app (as they do), and Apple either rejects it or takes a long time to approve it, the developer is unable to distribute it on alternative sources such as Cydia. This again can be interpreted as being in the users’ best interests, since malware can and has been introduced through unofficial app stores. It is also true that iOS apps can be developed without using Apple’s SDK.

More information about the EFF’s issues with the Apple Developer’s Agreement here.

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