Apple has removed an iPhone app that gave users access to the classified cables released by WikiLeaks
By removing an application from its online app store, Apple has joined the growing list of, primarily, US companies that have cut ties with WikiLeaks in recent weeks. The app gave users access to the documents posted on the whistleblower site.
“We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harms way,” Apple said in a statement.
Unofficial WikiLeaks App
The app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is an unofficial WikiLeaks app and was not developed by anyone working for the controversial site. Along with giving users the ability to search through the leaked cables, users can get live updates from the site’s Twitter feed, and donate to the organisation. The app also forwarded users to WikiLeaks mirrors.
As Wired noted, the app did not do anything more than what is already possible using the Safari mobile browser.
The developer, Igor Barinov, posted on Twitter that the app was submitted to Apple on December 11. It appeared in the store on December 17. A mere three days later, Apple removed it from the store without telling Barinov why, he posted. According to Barinov’s feed, there were 4,443 downloads, primarily from Germany and the United States and made $5,840 (£3,795). The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Italy rounded out the top five countries by downloads.
Barinov had said he would donate $1 to WikiLeaks for each download. He also posted a screenshot showing that the app had been downloaded nine more times the day after Apple said it was removed. According to the The Guardian, there is still a way to get the iPhone app – but adds that it “borders on the edge of legality”. Barinov said he is considering resubmitting it as a free iOS app or tweaking it to get it re-approved into Apple’s app store.
The Android version of Barinov’s app is still available. In fact, there are a number of other WikiLeaks applications available for Android users ranging from free to paid. While some just alert users when new documents are posted, others give direct access to the documents.
As of now, there have been no documented instances of anyone coming to harm as a result of WikiLeak’s releases. Apple declined to comment whether it would pull an issue of The New York Times, which has an iPad app, if it published WikiLeaks documents.
In past weeks, several US companies, including Amazon.com, Bank of America, PayPal, and EveryDNS, have withdrawn services from WikiLeaks, citing various violations of their Terms of Service, ranging from distributing content they did not own, to causing harm. While the US government has made no secret of wanting to see the site isolated and shut down, it has denied applying overt pressure on any of the corporations.
WikiLeaks’ supporters, under the Anonymous Operation banner, have engaged in retaliatory tactics, such as distributed denial of service attacks and boycotts, against these companies as a result of the bans. Regarding Apple’s actions, AnonOps posted on its Twitter account, “Please people, open eyes. This is censorship, it has no other name.”