EFF app for Android

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released an app for Android devices, but announced today that it has no plans to bring the software to Apple’s iOS platform. The reason, the organization said, is that it simply cannot agree to Apple’s developer agreement.

The EFF specifically called out six points in the document that it took issue with, although it noted that there were even more problems it didn’t have the space to mention. The complaints aren’t new—many of them date back to 2010—but it seems the foundation is determined once again to make its points heard.

From the EFF’s blog post:

As we have been saying for years now, the Developer Agreement is bad for developers and users alike. Here are a few of the terms that we are worried about:

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 organization has a mixed relationship with Apple. Last year it praised the Cupertino company’s “remarkable improvement” in the area of customer data protection and gave high marks in security to both iMessage and FaceTime.

The flipside of this is the EFF’s work to ensure that jailbreaking an iOS device remains legal despite Apple’s best attempts to scare users out of installing modifications to their phones and tablets. There are also the issues with the App Store model mentioned above.

It’s unlikely that the EFF will compromise its ideals to publish an app on iOS, though it’s always possible the software could eventually be released through the Cydia store on jailbroken devices—an course of action technically prohibited by the developer agreement against which the EFF is trying to take a stand.

About the Author

Mike Beasley's favorite gear