Apple recently removed the app Clueful, provided by the IT security software vendor Bitdefender, from its App Store. That at first glance isn’t momentous news. However, when looked at in a little more detail, it raises some questions.
The iOS app Clueful had been available in App Store for about two months. It had been approved by Apple back then. Bitdefender, even while being pretty cautious in what they are telling the public, says:
Apple informed Bitdefender’s product development team of the removal – for reasons we are studying – after it was approved under the same rules.This is a pretty interesting statement. There are things which are studied. But it looks like Apple decided to let this app pass and then removed it based on the same set of rules.
Clueful is an app which checks other apps. It analyzes whether apps are sending personal data unencrypted, whether they access the contacts, whether they track the current location of the user, and so on. It shows that information and explains what these facts mean to the user. Simply said, and in context of all the things that have happened in iOS, this is obviously a useful app for the users.
Bitdefender also had sent out a press release that, according to their research, 42.5% of the apps do not encrypt users’ personal data, even when accessed via public Wi-Fi. 41.4% of the apps track user locations unbeknownst to them. And almost 20% of the apps still can access the entire Address Book, some not even notifying the user.
However, from the Apple perspective and the view of many other app providers, it is dangerous app because it reveals “too much”. So what are the reasons for removing that app from App Store? Bitdefender doesn’t tell exactly and Apple doesn’t comment at all.
However, what shall I say? Honi soit qui mal y pense.
It is at least worthwhile to further follow this issue and to see what Bitdefender and Apple will say about it in the future – and whether the Clueful app (or other apps with that functionality) will be available in the App Store again soon.
And it is time to let the user decide about privacy. At least they should be kept informed so that they can make decisions. And once they’ve made a decision, that should be accepted – unlike for example in the Twitter app, which doesn’t take a no for a no but asks again and again, whether users don’t want to allow access to “Twitter contacts” and so on.