Apple apologizes for falsely accusing developer of fraud

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 10
A student developer has had his indigenous language app restored to the App Store, and Apple has apologized for removing it on mistaken grounds of fraud and dishonesty.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Apple has previously banned developers from the App Store for fraudulent reviews, but this time it mistakenly removed an entirely legitimate title. Student developer Brendan Ehsom had his free language app banned, and his developer account closed, before Apple apologized and restored it.

According to Global News, Ehsom is a first-year student at the University of British Columbia. A member of the Gitga'at community of the Ts'msyen First Nation, he developed a word-of-the-day app to promote his Sm'algyax language.

"It means the world to me," Ehsom told Global News. "Ever since my youth, I've heard my grandparents speak it around me and they've always encouraged me to learn."

"One day I just got an email from Apple and it was all gone," he continued. "All my hard work was gone that I had spent almost half a year on."

Eshom says that the Sm'algyax Word app was launched in July 2020 and abruptly removed some weeks later. By that time it had around 600 downloads and, according to Eshom, had therefore made it into the App Store's top charts for education.

Apple initially sent Eshom an automated email which in only general terms said that it was terminating the app because of dishonest and fraudulent acts. "It's definitely concerning when Apple is accusing you of committing fraud," said Eshom.

"It was definitely more discouraging to not even year why they took it down."

Reportedly, Apple did not respond to Eshom's requests for explanation, so he contacted Global News. Following the publication's contacting Apple, Eshom's app was restored and his developer account reactivated.

"Maintaining the integrity of the App Store is a responsibility we take seriously to ensure the safety of our customers, and give every developer a platform to share their brightest ideas with the world," an Apple spokesperson said in an email to the publication.

"Unfortunately, this developer's app, which is a great example of how technology can be used to bridge cultural understanding, was mistakenly removed from the App Store," continued Apple.

Sm'algyax Word app on the App Store
Sm'algyax Word app on the App Store


"We regret this error and apologize to Mr. Eshom for the inconvenience this caused him. We have since reinstated his developer account and app, and will continue our efforts to improve our processes to ensure this does not happen again."

It's not clear when Eshom's app was restored, nor how long it took Apple to respond to his or other requests. However, the Sm'algyax Word app is now available again in the App Store.

Apple reportedly told Global News that in the last year it has removed over half a million developer accounts for fraud. However, developers are complaining about multiple alleged fraudulent reviews that are reportedly not being dealt with by Apple.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    Stories like this keep making the point that Apple is trying to be the  moral authority and just removing things because some person decides you are doing something wrong, notice what Apple didn’t do, explain why the app was removed and why they thought the developer did something wrong. Then the student had to go to the media to get a response since Apple did not think they needed to respond.
    anantksundaramronnlongpathviclauyycbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 2 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,897member
    I'm glad Apple care about fraudulent reviews, but if they have any scope for error in identifying them then they need to have a fair and transparent process, and means for appeal.  It's not acceptable for any developer to have Apple unreasonably clamp down on their product and have to go to the press in order to see any remedial action.
    flyingdplongpathgregoriusmronn
  • Reply 3 of 18
    One side of the story, probably the student knew all to well and he did not react to the request of clarification, getting external attention is worth a lot of "free" publicity, I'm sure everything could have been cleared out without the need of involving some external media attention. It's becoming a way for developers small and big to get a lot of attention, leading to more downloads. Plus in this cynic world it's another argument to play the david versus goliath theme painting big tech as to powerful and monopolistic behaviour ...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,554member
    Company’s reputations often hinge on the actions of low level morons. Who made the original decision to cancel this developer and why?Now the headline reads, “Poor, first nation student developer gets whacked by Apple, Soprano style."
    edited February 10 argonautelijahgplanetary paulwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    temperor said:
    One side of the story, probably the student knew all to well and he did not react to the request of clarification, getting external attention is worth a lot of "free" publicity, I'm sure everything could have been cleared out without the need of involving some external media attention. It's becoming a way for developers small and big to get a lot of attention, leading to more downloads. Plus in this cynic world it's another argument to play the david versus goliath theme painting big tech as to powerful and monopolistic behaviour ...
    That's what you got out of this story? This is a very specific app, getting media attention wouldn't even benefit it all that much. 
    The fact of the matter is that Apple removed it and didn't give a valid reason for the removal. 
    elijahgmuthuk_vanalingamronnlongpathOferviclauyyc
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Pretty bad optics for Apple to ban an app and developer trying to keep alive a language of indigenous peoples. So many of these cultures and languages are gone forever. It’s an issue I’m painfully aware of as my own family name is derived from a now extinct language, with only a few latinized words left in Italian as testimony that my ancestors and their Germanic language ever existed.
    ronnOferelijahg
  • Reply 7 of 18
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,421member
    Another case where Apple does nothing until the media gets involved. That is entirely contradictory to the ethical aura Apple tries to portray.
    ronnlongpathlkruppOferviclauyycbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 8 of 18
    temperor said:
    One side of the story, probably the student knew all to well and he did not react to the request of clarification, getting external attention is worth a lot of "free" publicity, I'm sure everything could have been cleared out without the need of involving some external media attention. It's becoming a way for developers small and big to get a lot of attention, leading to more downloads. Plus in this cynic world it's another argument to play the david versus goliath theme painting big tech as to powerful and monopolistic behaviour ...
    The guy submitted the app July 2020.  Weeks later it got removed and his dev account was closed.  From the time the guy's account was closed to the time he got the media involved, he claimed to hear nothing from Apple.  Months of no response.  But somehow you're sure everything could have been cleared out without the need of external help.  What makes you think that?  Certainly nothing in this scenario.  I think it's highly likely without outside intervention that guy's app would still be removed and his dev account would still be closed.  In this cynical world it really looks like Apple acted out of concern over potentially negative optics.  
    muthuk_vanalingamronnlongpathlkruppelijahgOferzoetmbviclauyyc
  • Reply 9 of 18
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,356member
    lkrupp said:
    Company’s reputations often hinge on the actions of low level morons. Who made the original decision to cancel this developer and why?Now the headline reads, “Poor, first nation student developer gets whacked by Apple, Soprano style."
    Good for apple for doing the right thing and owning up to their mistake. What was more significant to me was the fact that Apple wouldn’t respond or explain its actions until the developer contacted a newspaper. Mistakes happen, but having no way or recourse for people is not acceptable.
    edited February 10 longpathaderutterOfer
  • Reply 10 of 18
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Jump ahead to where he had to be lucky enough to get media coverage to embarrass Apple before Apple would actually examine the issue.

    The next time Apple arbitrarily blocks my girlfriend’s iMessage account, for no stated reason, will she have to hope for similar media attention to get it unblocked? (Hot tip: she has a total of three imessage contacts, none of which would’ve reported her, and she doesn’t do anything worth reporting, and the support person said it was a “one time courtesy unblock”)

    Using algorithms, or single user reports, without actual human discernment involved in the process is, and will always be, a stupid & lazy way to conduct management of anything. There’s no such thing as AI. Stop acting like the crap that gets called AI can substitute for actual intelligence.
    elijahgOfer
  • Reply 11 of 18
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    It is sad that it’s gotten to where an actual *apology* from a company like Apple (with their creepy corporate culture) is notable. So, yay for an actual apology, I guess?
    elijahgOfer
  • Reply 12 of 18
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,783member
    Given how many ‘freemium’ apps are data-harvesting trojans & how many are based on 3rd-party write-once-run-anywhere frameworks which don’t look or feel like iOS Apps at all - Apple needs to get better at this.
    elijahgviclauyyc
  • Reply 13 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,014member
    temperor said:
    One side of the story, probably the student knew all to well and he did not react to the request of clarification, getting external attention is worth a lot of "free" publicity, I'm sure everything could have been cleared out without the need of involving some external media attention. It's becoming a way for developers small and big to get a lot of attention, leading to more downloads. Plus in this cynic world it's another argument to play the david versus goliath theme painting big tech as to powerful and monopolistic behaviour ...
    We all hear enough story about Apple not responding to developers so this is not unusual. If you are one of the very large developers who have access to specific people at the management level they can get a response. However, most people have stories of no response and companies like Apple have no escalation path or repeal process which requires Apple to responded within a reasonable amount of time with details of what someone has to do. This is why the government in their (lack there of) infinite wisdom is look to create laws which require companies with platform to be more transparent on how they make decision and ban people from their platform. Do you really think the government come up with good solution which will not kill creativity.

    I highly double this person was looking for his 15sec of fame, the fact it took 6 months to play out should tell you something.
    viclauyycelijahg
  • Reply 14 of 18
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,400member
    I would rather Apple bat 99.9 percent on removing apps due to fraudulent reviews and accidentally hurt a developer who is innocent of this than to have them stop their efforts to combat the scourge of fraudulent apps.

    I do think Apple owes the developer an explanation of what happened, but it is quite possible that they have a condition that this not be shared with the press in order to protect trade secrets. The preservation of North American native languages is a very worthy cause and I applaud this student developer for helping expand that circle. Hopefully the publicity over Apple's error in handling this will get more attention on the app to reach the audience that could benefit from it.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    Isn't there something Apple now has in place to dispute app removals? 

    Apple should be able to provide more information to developers when they ask for it. The app store hinges on developers.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 18
    maestro64 said:
    Stories like this keep making the point that Apple is trying to be the  moral authority and just removing things because some person decides you are doing something wrong, notice what Apple didn’t do, explain why the app was removed and why they thought the developer did something wrong. Then the student had to go to the media to get a response since Apple did not think they needed to respond.
    Exactly this.  No explanation before or after, no action on Apple's part until the media got involved.

    "Maintaining the integrity of the App Store is a responsibility we take seriously to ensure the safety of our customers, and give every developer a platform to share their brightest ideas with the world," an Apple spokesperson said in an email to the publication.
    This is what Apple calls "Integrity".

    I'll give them all due credit for doing the right thing and reinstating his app and account, but I'll also give them all due crap for not doing the due diligence before wiping out his existence.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    The Apple app review process is shrouded in mystery. My personal experience is that it is mostly automated at this point with no humans involved and may well generate false positives. We know it misses a lot of bad apps as developers have learned to work around the technology checks. Like all things related to security, Apple talks a good line but in reality, their security is nothing like what they say it is. Consider the fact that there are still jail breaks fifteen years after the iPhone was released. If everything was really secure and encrypted the way Apple claims it is, it should be impossible to run an unsigned app on an iPhone for the simple reason that no one but Apple knows the encryption codes.
    edited February 11
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