Apple denied COVID app to secure contact tracing monopoly, lawsuit claims

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2021
Apple has been hit with a lawsuit claiming that it rejected a coronavirus contact tracing app to maintain a COVID-19 exposure notification monopoly.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


The lawsuit, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the New Hampshire District on Tuesday, centers on a smartphone application called "Coronavirus Reporter" that was denied entry to the App Store in March 2020.

Coronavirus Reporter, the lawsuit claims, was developed by a team of healthcare and computer science experts in February 2020 to "capture and obtain critical biostatistical and epidemiological data as it happened."

The team behind the app completed its development on March 3, the complaint continues. That's about the time that Apple barred coronavirus-related apps that weren't from recognized medical, government, or other institutions from the App Store.

The tech giant in an announcement posted to its developer website in mid-March last year noted its commitment to making the App Store a "safe and trusted place," saying it was evaluating coronavirus-related apps "critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions." It also recognized the time-sensitive nature of publishing said apps and made accommodations to expedite the review process.

After Apple rejected Coronavirus Reporter, the app's developers appealed. The title was ultimately rejected some 20 days later because it was not backed by a recognized healthcare company and its "user-generated data has not been vetted for accuracy by a reputable source."

The complaint says that Apple allowed another app that functioned similarly onto the App Store about a month later. It also takes issue with the Apple and Google Exposure Notification framework, which it says is "largely a failure."

Beyond ensuring accurate data from legitimate sources, Apple's cross-platform Exposure Notification protocol, developed in partnership with Google, is built on a privacy-first framework. The system denies storage of personal data on central servers and relies on anonymized Bluetooth beacons on user devices until participants elect to share the information with an outside party. If and when a user is diagnosed with COVID-19, they can opt to upload a 14-day list of recent contacts (again, anonymized) to a distribution server, which matches beacon IDs and sends out notifications alerting those individuals that they came in close contact with a carrier of the virus. Doctors can also peruse the data, if such access is granted.

Third-party apps that integrate with the Exposure Notification API must adhere to Apple's rules.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple blocked Coronavirus Reporter in an effort to maintain a monopoly on contact tracing applications. Additionally, it claims that Apple's ability to "arbitrarily determine which applications will or will not be published has substantial anti-competitive effects."

The lawsuit says that these actions constitute violations of the anti-monopoly Sherman Act. It seeks an enjoinment on the alleged anti-competitive behavior; damages in excess of $75,000; and a permanent injunction restraining Apple's ability to "[restrict] reasonable applications."

Coronavirus Reporter v. Apple by Mikey Campbell on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    ‘Monopoly’? What a joke this lawsuit is.

    There are COVID-19 contact tracing apps which are backed by Government and its Healthcare agency from other countries that have been approved and still available in App Store. How would that be a ‘Monopoly’?
    Anilu_777magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 18
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,994member
    chaicka said:
    ‘Monopoly’? What a joke this lawsuit is.

    There are COVID-19 contact tracing apps which are backed by Government and its Healthcare agency from other countries that have been approved and still available in App Store. How would that be a ‘Monopoly’?
    Absolutely. The rules about who can put one of these in the store are well established, and clear. They went in KNOWING they did not meet the standards, and now they’re whining about it. 

    Plus a monopoly on a free app that generates no revenue? What would be the point even if it were true?
    Anilu_777caladanianmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,357member
    Apple slammed the door on the scammers that were surely coming to rip people off.  So it was if we don’t know you and the health industry doesn’t know you, then go away. 
    Anilu_777magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    Apple is the property of its shareholders. The shareholders approve a Board of Directors who selects a management team. The management team run the company and all thing associated with Apple. The Apps store is an enticement for Apple’s  customers who voluntarily purchase Apple Products over other competitors products. 

    Since the App Store is for Apple Products only and it is own by Apple, which is a PRIVATE corporate entity, Apple is free to be as arbitrary as they want over which products they will allow into their PRIVATE store. 

    Bottom line::

    My customers, My rules, and My store and since the Supreme Court has already stated that as a PRIVATE business I have First Amendment Rights, I  just arbitrarily exercised My RIGHTS and I will not allow your App into My Store! 
    fred1watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 18
    glennh said:
    Apple is the property of its shareholders. The shareholders approve a Board of Directors who selects a management team. The management team run the company and all thing associated with Apple. The Apps store is an enticement for Apple’s  customers who voluntarily purchase Apple Products over other competitors products. 

    Since the App Store is for Apple Products only and it is own by Apple, which is a PRIVATE corporate entity, Apple is free to be as arbitrary as they want over which products they will allow into their PRIVATE store. 

    Bottom line::

    My customers, My rules, and My store and since the Supreme Court has already stated that as a PRIVATE business I have First Amendment Rights, I  just arbitrarily exercised My RIGHTS and I will not allow your App into My Store! 
    More importantly, if you can’t show Apple
    that you are an established, recognized institution or government, how is Apple to guarantee that the data you collect isn’t going to be exploited somehow? 

    Like others have mentioned, this isn’t anything new, especially when it comes to medical
    data and HIPAA.

    Ironically, a lot of states didn’t work with Apple and Google for contact tracing anyway. So even if “Coronavirus Reporter” did end up on the App Store, it doesn’t mean it would be a success. 
    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Sooooooo these people are just idiots lol
    mattinozmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 18
    chaicka said:
    ‘Monopoly’? What a joke this lawsuit is.

    There are COVID-19 contact tracing apps which are backed by Government and its Healthcare agency from other countries that have been approved and still available in App Store. How would that be a ‘Monopoly’?
    Given the program Apple used is free this makes even less sense the Epic suit which is also bag of hammers dumb.
    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    glennh said:
    Apple is the property of its shareholders. The shareholders approve a Board of Directors who selects a management team. The management team run the company and all thing associated with Apple. The Apps store is an enticement for Apple’s  customers who voluntarily purchase Apple Products over other competitors products. 

    Since the App Store is for Apple Products only and it is own by Apple, which is a PRIVATE corporate entity, Apple is free to be as arbitrary as they want over which products they will allow into their PRIVATE store. 

    Bottom line::

    My customers, My rules, and My store and since the Supreme Court has already stated that as a PRIVATE business I have First Amendment Rights, I  just arbitrarily exercised My RIGHTS and I will not allow your App into My Store! 
    Actually Apple is a publicly-traded company (anyone can buy shares) but the rest is correct.  The terms of COVID-19 apps were very clear.  Don’t bother making one unless you fit the criteria because you’ll be rejected.  They wasted their time developing it.  An Epic fail...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    sully54sully54 Posts: 104member
    Is this App on the Google Play Store? Why are they only suing apple? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    There will ongoing attacks on basic security standards of iOS even we should not bee fooled that state organizations do not have some access inside.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    ivanhivanh Posts: 597member
    digital tyranny! Wake up man, (& woman &...)

    /e/ project  ———— Linux phone is coming. 
  • Reply 12 of 18
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,994member
    ivanh said:
    digital tyranny! Wake up man, (& woman &...)

    /e/ project  ———— Linux phone is coming. 
    What? This is about as clear as a tagger scrawl on a park bench.
    Dogpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,036member
    DAalseth said:
    ivanh said:
    digital tyranny! Wake up man, (& woman &...)

    /e/ project  ———— Linux phone is coming. 
    What? This is about as clear as a tagger scrawl on a park bench.
    Something to do with https://e.foundation/ I guess.

    "Digital tyranny"  :D
  • Reply 14 of 18
    sully54 said:
    Is this App on the Google Play Store? Why are they only suing apple? 
    Apple has more cash?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 18
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Only $75,000?

    Not showing a lot of confidence there. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 18
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,432administrator
    ivanh said:
    digital tyranny! Wake up man, (& woman &...)

    /e/ project  ———— Linux phone is coming. 
    This is one the most ridiculous things that I've ever seen posted seriously in the AppleInsider forums.
    Dogpersonwatto_cobracitylightsapple
  • Reply 17 of 18
    Apparently now having even basic requirements for app quality and disinformation guards is an anti-competitive flex.

    In reflection of the enormous amount of covid-disinformation disseminated (including that spouted from certain political figures) -  Apple's requirement that covid information apps have reputable backing seems to be a minimal barrier to entry.

    DAalsethwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 18
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 911member
    Seem Apple made it clear that such covid apps must be approved (maybe even sponsored?) by government or reputable health care providers. 

    Obviously, they needed to market this app to government and health care entities so their app would be approved by Apple. They didn't do that, so I don't se how they have a case.

    It's not like a government or health care entities write these apps themselves -- they contract out or buy a private company's app to promote. Their first customer needed to be a government or healthcare entity. 
    watto_cobra
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