Stolen! was a game that allowed users to collect and trade Twitter accounts. It was creepy, but probably could have existed in the grey area if it weren’t for the nicknames feature.
If you ‘owned’ an in-game account, you could assign it a nickname which only you could change. The potential for bullying, harrassment and abuse in just this one feature gave most of us a pretty sour feeling about Hey Inc and the app itself.
It’s worth noting however, that Hey Inc was responsive to criticism and did ultimately remove the feature. In a comment to TNW, CEO Siqi Chen said the company had “[…] disabled nicknaming and cleared all existing nicknames for the time being.”
Again, it may have survived with the removal of nicknames and the ability for users that didn’t want to be ‘owned’ or ‘traded’ to opt-out, but that feature didn’t come until today. And when it did, it came with a rather large condition: connecting your Twitter account and giving the company the ability to post to your followers.
This was remedied shortly after, TNW confirmed that CEO Siqi Chen said the app would now only require read permissions to be in effect, rather than the ability to post.
But again, this forces us to place a lot of trust in a company that has only been on most of our radars for about two weeks.
The wheels fell off today after Representative Katherine M. Clark, a Congresswoman from the 5th District of Massachusetts, penned a letter to both Apple and Twitter voicing her displeasure of the application.
My letter 2 Twitter & Apple abt my concerns w/ "Stolen!" – an app that enables online abusers 2 “own” ppl’s profiles pic.twitter.com/c4ujmIq4e5
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 14, 2016
Less than an hour later, the Stolen! Twitter account announced that it was shutting down and sent Clark a tweet agreeing with her concerns. The team behind Stolen! is also offering refunds for in-ap purchases through iTunes.
The app is no longer available in the App Store. We've heard everyone's concerns and have decided the best thing to do is to shut down.
— i died (@getstolen) January 14, 2016
If I had to guess, this saga won’t stop here. We’ll keep our eye on this one.