Apple has removed an app from its store that informed users if a third-party was spying on communications or had access to your data on your iPhone.
While Apple’s approval process for the App Store can be a notoriously fickle beast to tame, it seems that Stefan Esser’s ‘System and Security Info‘ is one of the latest undesirables, from Apple’s point-of-view.
In a nutshell, the app told you whether the software that your phone is running is authentic and was designed to tell you if there was malware or other undesirable software at play through its ‘anomaly detection’ tool. It can also detect if the phone has been jailbroken without the owner’s knowledge.
Unfortunately, the app ran into problems during its fourth review process for the App Store, and was removed. Esser was essentially told that detecting weaknesses or problems in a user’s phone wasn’t allowed, and could lead to “potentially inaccurate and misleading diagnostic functionality for iOS devices.”
Here. It basically says: we do not want our users to have the impression iOS could have security holes. go away. pic.twitter.com/7II1q96ZMt
— Stefan Esser (@i0n1c) May 14, 2016
Esser, for his part, is confused by the removal from the App Store, as he says that the app only performed the same function as many others that have been allowed to remain available.
. @sharedRoutine there is nothing to piss people off: it was a system info tool showing a process list and jailbreak status/like other apps
— Stefan Esser (@i0n1c) May 15, 2016
The fact our app was pulled is selective punishment. They let hundreds of system monitor tools in the store some obviously using privateAPI
— Stefan Esser (@i0n1c) May 16, 2016
One thing Esser says he won’t be doing, however, is releasing a jailbroken version of the app, thereby side-stepping Apple’s restrictions altogether.
It’s a strange move to ban a seemingly benign app that’s already passed Apple’s approval process, particularly when it’s one designed to keep users informed if they’re being spied on in some way. Critics argue that the removal of the app by Apple is designed to prevent potential weaknesses in the platform from being shown to users, which wouldn’t be very good for the company’s squeaky clean image.
It’s also a move that flies directly in the face of the public message Apple’s been putting out about its defense of users’ privacy from snooping, where possible.
It’s a decision that will likely confuse users and further erode faith put in the company by developers: there’s not a lot of incentive to build apps for a company that might just decide to ban your work because it doesn’t like it.
We’ve asked Apple for a comment and will update when we hear back.