Wednesday, November 20, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Guilherme Rambo Locked Out of Apple Developer Account

Guilherme Rambo (tweet, Hacker News):

After about two weeks of waiting, I decided to call developer support, which sounds easy, but I couldn’t find any phone number to reach them anywhere on the public part of the developer site. The only way to get on the phone with developer support is to visit a page within the developer portal where you can enter your phone number for them to call you later. The problem is that I couldn’t even visit that page because it also redirected me to the aforementioned contact form.

[…]

Like I mentioned before, the problem began in August. So far I’ve tried every possible private communication channel before deciding to make this story public. It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t get any e-mail or call from Apple warning about any sort of action being taken against my developer account. Apple always says that “running to the press doesn’t help”. Unfortunately, they haven’t responded in any way, even when I tried reaching out through internal contacts that I have. So the only option I have left now is to “run to the press”.

I’ve read about developers having their accounts shut down for all sorts of alleged reasons. The most recent case happened to my friend Ying, who got his account terminated for “fraud”, which he didn’t commit. After he shared his story publicly, Apple reinstated his account.

With notarization required for Catalina, even distributing apps outside the App Store requires a developer account. Not stated: he’s probably violated the Apple Developer Agreement. Personally, I don’t think publishing publicly available (though hidden) information should be grounds for banning. And, regardless, he should be able to get a straightforward and prompt answer about his account status.

John Gruber:

Rambo is extraordinarily talented at what I would describe as digital spelunking — he explores the internals of beta OS releases and pokes at beta APIs and he finds things that weren’t supposed to have been exposed. And when he does, he publishes his findings. It would be quite a coincidence if that’s not the conflict at the center of his account having been disabled — that someone at Apple got pissed off and impetuously ordered Rambo’s account disabled, and now they don’t want to explain it.

Jason Snell:

Would be a real shame if Apple suspended his account because they don’t like that he’s smart enough to uncover things they’ve accidentally shipped publicly. That would be petty retaliation.

Rob Lorenz:

It would be terrible, but I think it’s almost better than the alternative. They’ve locked him out for months and won’t tell him how to restore his account. If that isn’t retaliation, what is it? They’re just totally incompetent at account management and developer relations?

Previously:

Update (2019-11-25): Jason Snell:

There are many angles to this story. Rambo’s sources are not limited to software—over the past year he’s written stories that suggest human sources, he’s outguessed Apple at how it named URLs for forthcoming public events, and yes, he’s found hints of future products in beta releases of Apple’s operating systems.

That last one is, without a doubt, against the letter of the law of section 9 of Apple’s developer license agreement[…]

[…]

It is literally impossible for disclosures like this to remain secret on today’s Internet. The right move is what Apple’s been doing the past few years, namely attempting to keep the real secrets locked up in Cupertino and assume that anything given to developers will leak.

Guilherme Rambo:

My Apple developer account issues have been resolved.

No word on whether Apple provided an explanation or imposed any conditions for reinstating his account.

11 Comments

About ten years ago during the iPhone SDK NDA era when jailbreaking was still pretty big, some of us in the scene got word that there was internally a blacklist of jailbreak-affiliated developers (whether it be for the jailbreaks themselves or software intended for jailbroken iOS devices) whose developer support requests were to be immediately escalated to a higher level, which we interpreted as our requests being thrown directly into a black hole. As Apple's policies opened up and they started hiring away members of the scene, I was under the impression that this practice had ended and everyone was treated indiscriminately again, but maybe not? Seeing Rambo's tweet this morning definitely reminded me of that right away though.

The developer of my favorite note taking app FS Notes (the the by far best replacement so far for nvALT, Justnotes, SimpleNote etc) ran into Apples opaque process and was locked out for months because he was ”under investigation” for reasons they did not tell him.

@ Adrian B: In that FS Notes thread Apple mentioned The dev may be investigated for violations of the Applee “Developer Code of Conduct”.

Are AppStore Developers Apple employees?

It is just unbelievable that this can happen. Everybody's fears about notarization are being proven correct.

(Did my comment get eaten??)

Unbelievable a company can behave like this. There was a lot of consternation around notarization and Apple being the Gatekeeper. Apple is showing those fears may have a basis.

@ Leo M: I have no idea where to find that code of conduct, but I'm no developer myself. (But I'm pretty sure no third party developer are Apple employees.)

This is why we can expect fewer and fewer native apps on the Mac. The future will be a cornucopia of javascript based things, draining one's battery and eating one's RAM, because native costs more (a different app for every platform) and involves more risk. Given those barriers, better user experience is just not worth it, especially if the competition is just as slow and bloated.

Guilherme Rambo has since updated his blog post with a single-sentence preface: “Update 2019, Nov 22: Apple reached out and resolved the situation.”

Well, a little more detail would be interesting, wouldn't it?

Rambo isn't interested in telling the truth, given that he completely left out the totally likely reason that his account was suspended -- he violates his NDA by revealing Apple's product secrets. He made it seem like it was a "bad company comes after a completely random developer for no particular reason" situation, but it wasn't. I'm not surprised he's been fairly silent after it was resolved. If he told the truth, he'd probably would have to admit it was his fault. Wanna bet we see fewer leaks from him directly?

"Here's what's going to happen:

"Apple will unlock Rambo's developer account, no apology or explanation will ever be given, and then everyone will forget it and go back to believing that Apple is an ethical and honest company."

Jeff Johnson, 20 Nov 2019 (https://twitter.com/lapcatsoftware/status/1197186395128901633)

Regardless of people's opinion of this developer breaking NDAs, my problem is even if this guy just wants to ship software outside of the Mac app store, forget iOS here, does he not require an Apple Developer Account to notarize his software? Otherwise, you have to disable Gatekeeper, right?

Seems to me that even if you don't really want to play in the App store sandbox, any developer is overly reliant on remaining within Apple's good graces and the perniciousness of their decision making would seem problematic for those wanting simply to make Mac applications available outside the walled garden.

Then again, the walls have extended and arguably the whole platform has become one huge walled garden.

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