Friday, August 28, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Terminates Epic Games’ Developer Account

Juli Clover (tweet):

Fortnite has been unavailable for a few weeks, but other Epic Games titles like Battle Breakers and Infinity Blade Stickers were still in the App Store . Now that the Epic Games developer account has been terminated, those apps are gone.

[…]

Though the Epic Games developer account is no longer available, Fortnite continues to work.

As expected. Apple also disabled IAP because customers were asking for refunds.

Last night, Epic sent out emails to Fortnite players blaming the unavailability of the new season on Apple and claming that Apple is “blocking Fortnite” in order to prevent Epic Games from “passing on the savings from direct payments to players.” Apple in turn has taken to featuring Fortnite competitor PUBG in its App Store.

It appears that the Mac version of Fortnite is signed by the separate Epic International account that Epic uses for Unreal Engine.

Previously:

Update (2020-08-31): Ryan Jones:

In dueling PR statements Apple sounds over dramatic, while Epic is chillin’.

Tim Sweeney:

Apple’s statement isn’t forthright. They chose to terminate Epic’s account; they didn’t have to.

Apple suggests we spammed the App Store review process. That’s not so. Epic submitted three Fortnite builds: two bug-fix updates, and the Season 4 update with this note.

John Gruber:

The last approved version of Fortnite still runs, but along with other games from Epic, it’s no longer available from the App Store, even if you previously downloaded it. This means you won’t be able to restore Fortnite on a new or factory-reset iPhone.

[…]

The “instead they repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to violate the guidelines” line in Apple’s statement is interesting, though. I don’t read it as an accusation of “spamming”, as Sweeney claims. Epic submitted three builds, none of which removed their in-app purchase circumvention, so they knew Apple was never going to approve them. They were just wasting Apple’s time. But I find it interesting that Apple even mentioned it, or phrased it that way. It indicates that Epic has gotten under their skin to some degree.

But, presumably, under the new rules announced today, the bug fixes would be allowed? Somehow I doubt that.

See also: Hacker News, Accidental Tech Podcast, Cory Doctorow.

Miguel de Icaza (tweet, Hacker News):

In the end, I value my iOS devices because I know that I can trust them with my information because security is paramount to Apple.

[…]

In the battle over the security and privacy of my phone, I am happy to pay a premium knowing that my information is safe and sound, and that it is not going to be sold to the highest bidder.

It’s comforting to believe this, but it may be more marketing and information hiding than truth. We know that information is being sold and that most of the actual security benefits are due to the design of iOS rather than the App Store itself.

10 Comments

Old Unix Geek

Wow...

Well spotted Jeff Johnson. That was a very bad mistake (signing the Mac version of Fortnite using the Epic International Account).

Why was it a "bad mistake"?

Old Unix Geek

They claim that Unreal Engine and Fortnite are developed by separate units of Epic Games. Signing Fortnite with both developer IDs weakens that claim... It seems similar to me to the situation where an LLC provides little protection from lawsuits for the owner if the owner does not keep his personal and his company's finances separate.

Regarding Miguel de Icaza's post: if you value security and privacy, you should support the opening of iOS, not oppose it. Right now, Apple has near-total control of the security functions of the iPhone, and, as he states, they could be doing a much better job.

This job could, in another world, be done by other apps, and other app stores, whose commitments to privacy and security are not compromised by a stronger commitment to the profitability of their platform, as Apple's is. Imagine an alternate app store that does the kind of vetting for scams and personal data harvesting that we wish Apple would. Imagine being able to install apps that strengthen the iOS sandbox, or a firewall that lets you block ads and tracking in other apps, as you can on any desktop computer. If you value privacy and security, you should want these things, and Apple is not going to give them to you.

@Moonlight

That's a very good point. Little Snitch for IOS would be great!

https://www.obdev.at/support/littlesnitch/245694059925402

Miguel de Icaza is a strange dude. He works for Microsoft, how about he gets his own company to stop collecting massive amounts of data about my computer use and stop selling me to Candy Crush or whichever partner of the day. How about Minecraft stop being inundated with ads for "marketplace offers", to the point, I actually block them. There apps and products are one big ad, man!

Security is a red herring and he knows it. Quoting consoles walled gardens is tiresome. These supposedly computing devices, were originally bare to the metal, single software, single software system, originating in the 1980s (1970s arguably). Literally, consoles originally did not have an OS, the software you inserted owned the whole system. Into the 1990s!!!! I would argue the first consoles with OSes were the CD based ones, so PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx CD and Mega/Sega CD. Nintendo 64. It took until 2006 for the systems to do much "General purpose" stuff. Sure, you could listen to CDs or watch DVDS, maybe use a Photo CD, but that was about it until Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii started offering "app stores".

My point being, we look at these devices as distinct from their roots. While consoles are certainly computers these days and could stand being opened up a bit, they are descended from these single software (notice I do not say single tasking as you literally have one app loaded at a time, no system software, no Desk Accessories, and the system has to be shutdown before new software can be loaded). In comparison to phones, this is ass backwards. Well, smartphones anyway, the whole point of smartphones were they were mini computers and you could install anything compatible. I remember pre-iPhone users chafing when the carriers (yes, remember when carriers were the sole gate keepers?) would block installation of no approved apps? The lineage of smart devices were they were mobile computers. As such the expectations of which each type of device could do is distinct and rightfully so.

Rose tinted glasses thinking the old days were safer (quoting DOS and the early BBS/Internet days). Such a weird fall from grace from a guy that splintered Linux desktop efforts because QT did not have a free enough license, to shilling for closed systems that are customer and developer hostile. Miguel knows this and I honestly think he is just a corporate shill these days, long since selling out principles for dollars. But hey, we all have to eat, so more power to him.

You want to know why I am particularly salty?
Miguel ad hominem attack on every single person complaining about Apple's policies!

So when all these swindlers, scammers, robbers, conmen whine about the AppStore and Apple I just have to take them to task. They can rot in hell for all I care.

I have seen many developers that I trust and many regular users that I trust, complain about many different aspects of the app store walled garden. His take is to call all of us such things? Okay, shill.

Wow! Word salad on my post…let me clarify my poorly written points:
1. 15 yard flag for using there instead of their.

2. "My point being, we look at these devices as distinct from their roots." Not worded correctly, perhaps I meant, "…as distinct on account of their disparate origins." Sorry.

The reason people look at game consoles, still in 2020, as closed boxes is on account that for the first 30 years of their consumer facing lifespan, they were mostly just that, closed boxes. The roots of smartphones were precisely opposite, the goal was to make these portable devices more functional, more operational, and they tended to allow for installing of apps just as personal computers allowed. If the app was compatible, it could be sold and run on the hardware. Smartphones were an awakening of the platform, not a locking down of the platform (this applies to many so called feature phones as well).

Whereas, most consoles had some kind of licensing requirements and while you cannot really stop homebrew development on these platforms (witness the retro game release renaissance on older hardware in recent years), you could make it hard to get the official seal of approval and in some markets, that seal was required to sell such software.

4. Clearly I cut and failed to properly paste a chunk of the game console riff. My N64 sentence fragment was meant to point to the fact that even into the 1990s and early 2000s, the N64 did not have an OS and could only function with cartridges inserted. Even the GameCube, while sporting a BIOS of sorts, could not actually do anything else of substance, no music CDs, no video discs (yeah, yeah, someone is going to bring up the hybrid Panasonic GameCube DVD player, but that's an edge case). Nintendo was a latecomer to doing anything non gaming related on their game consoles, for sure (yes, yes, I have seen Mario Paint on the SNES and Miracle Piano Teaching System on the NES, but these are still edge cases.)

5. Security is a red herring precisely because these close systems were designed not for security but for control of the software distribution market. It is not impossible to run bootleg discs/cartridges or weird homebrew on most of these older systems. Cost was the primary stumbling block on early game console piracy. It cost a lot to buy memory chips for cartridges and I do no believe the PC Engine CD nor Mega CD had any DRM on their game discs, but CD burners were very pricey in the late 1980s into the early 1990s.

6. I remain frustrated, nay, outraged Miguel would tar all people with the same brush since he does not do much to consider the arguments made by legitimate people, either consumer or developer, who have long since complained about a myriad of problems with Apple's policies surrounding iOS development. The name calling was made precisely to lump complaints into the same bucket.

Finally, Apple's privacy policy is actually interesting to read.

Under Disclosure to third parties, Apple explicitly says:

Apple does not sell personal information, and personal information will never be shared with third parties for their marketing purposes.

Great start! Excepting, well, it is not the start of the policy, preceding information unfortunately states the following caveat:

We also collect data in a form that does not, on its own, permit direct association with any specific individual. We may collect, use, transfer, and disclose non-personal information for any purpose.

Wait, what the hell, so, they can share your info, but at least this is non-personal information, so maybe not so bad? What constitutes such info you might ask?

* We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.
* We may collect information regarding customer activities on our website, iCloud services, our iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, App Store for Apple TV and iBooks Stores and from our other products and services. This information is aggregated and used to help us provide more useful information to our customers and to understand which parts of our website, products, and services are of most interest. Aggregated data is considered non‑personal information for the purposes of this Privacy Policy.
* We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries. This information may be used to improve the relevancy of results provided by our services. Except in limited instances to ensure quality of our services over the Internet, such information will not be associated with your IP address.
* With your explicit consent, we may collect data about how you use your device and applications in order to help app developers improve their apps.

Look, all except that last one, as it requires explicit consent, are pretty broad categories of information. So it turns out Apple does use their customers for a variety of marketing and development purposes, but they simply anonymize the data as much as they can. Cookies and Other Technologies further clarifies Apple does use information and a tracking ID, unless you opt out of their ad network and other company marketing.

Not the worst privacy policy by far, but Apple does one, acquire a lot of data about their constomers, at least in aggregate, and two, does use the data for a myriad of reasons.

@Moonlight @Old Unix Geek: Have you tried AdGuard (Standard and Pro are now the same App)??

It can be set up like loading a (strong, yes even Steven Black) hostfile into Little Snitch and while you don't have pop-ups asking for permission, it does the "net filter" type LS functions QUITE WELL. You have Safari content blocking (emulating UBlock Origin) on one side, and "DNS protection" that is system-wide via local VPN profile.

It's quite powerful but requires power user or even sysadm tweaking, and (as I posted in iOS App review for AdG Pro) you MUST "Read the Fine Manual."

[…] promised, Apple terminated Epic’s main developer account. Apple’s letter to Epic says that it is banned from reapplying for one […]

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