Apple has stopped distributing an iPhone app that allowed users easy access to leaked US cables published by WikiLeaks. But it may be that the deletion has something to do with a technical breach of the App Store rules rather than the nature of the app itself.
The application, named simply WikiLeaks App, was produced by an independent developer, Igor Barinov. It combined access to the group’s official Twitter feed with a link to the main WikiLeaks site. (Though the diplomatic cables are the main attraction on WikiLeaks at the moment, the app simply points to the site rather than the cables themselves.)
With the app offering absolutely nothing that can’t be accessed through any web browser, it’s the $1.99 fee that appears to be the problem. Barinov had vowed that, having paid 60 cents per sale to Apple as required, he would keep 39 cents to cover development costs, and donate $1 to WikiLeaks itself.
Though other tech companies such as PayPal and Mastercard have blocked financial access to Wikileaks on the grounds that the organization may be committing criminal offenses, Apple’s objection may simply be that the app breaches a rule that says applications allowing donations to charity must be free, with the cash collected via a website.
The most interesting thing to look for now is whether members of cyber-protest group Anonymous buy that explanation and, if not, what they do about it. It will be particularly intriguing to see if any direct action is taken by the group on Apple’s website, or if there’ll be an attempt to specifically target the iPhone.
Apple has yet to comment on the reasons for pulling the app. If past experience is anything to go by, the company is unlikely to do so. It is worth remembering that to get on the App Store in the first place, the app required approval from Apple’s vetting team.