EFF refuses to release its iOS app because of App Store’s Developer Agreement

Electronic Frontier Foundation logo

The Electronic Frontier Foundation today released a new app for Android devices that will make it easier for users to file a digital rights issue from their phone. The organisation, however, did not release an app for iOS because it disagrees with Apple’s DRM and App Store Developer requirements.  

The organisation has raised and explained its top six issues with the Developer Agreement. The foundation has been raising its voice against the App Store developer Agreement since years now, but this is the first time it has clearly explained at least a few major issues with it.

Ban on Public Statements: Section 10.4 prohibits developers from making any “public statements” about the terms of the Agreement. This is particularly strange, since the Agreement itself is not “Apple Confidential Information” as defined in Section 10.1. So the terms are not confidential, but developers are contractually forbidden from speaking “publicly” about them.

Ban on Reverse Engineering: Section 2.6 prohibits any reverse engineering (including the kinds of reverse engineering for interoperability that courts have recognized as a fair use under copyright law), as well as anything that would “enable others” to reverse engineer, the software development kit (SDK) or iPhone OS.

App Store Only: Section 7.3 makes it clear that any applications developed using Apple’s SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store, and that Apple can reject an app for any reason, even if it meets all the formal requirements disclosed by Apple. So if you use the SDK and your app is rejected by Apple, you’re prohibited from distributing it through competing app stores like Cydia.

No Tinkering with Any Apple Products: Section 3.2(e) is the “ban on jailbreaking” provision that appears to prohibit developers from tinkering with any Apple software or technology, not just the iPhone, or “enabling others to do so.”

Apple Owns Your Security: Section 6.1 explains that Apple has to approve any bug fixes or security releases. If Apple does not approve such updates very quickly, this requirement could put many people in jeopardy.

Kill Your App Any Time: Section 8 makes it clear that Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time.” Steve Jobs once confirmed that Apple can remotely disable apps, even after they have been installed by users. This contract provision would appear to allow that.

The EFF has also asked “Apple to revisit their terms and conditions” and has even started a petition for it.

In contrast, Google’s Play Store does not have any such policy and freely allows developers to distribute apps that modify the system file via root access. Google even allows devs. to distribute their apps through other app stores and publish updates without prior approval from the company.

Since Apple is not going to change its Developer Agreement policies anytime soon, EFF will have to look at other ways of distributing their iOS app to users like the Cydia app store, or drop the idea of releasing the app altogether.

The EFF has a love-hate relationship with Apple. The foundation played a major role in keeping jailbreaking legal in the United States. However, it also praised Apple for improved transparency and user data protection in a report in 2014 and ranked FaceTime and iMessage as the most secure mass market messaging options.

[Source EFF, Via 9to5Mac]