By Jennifer LeClaire / Mobile Tech Today. Updated August 07, 2009.
Apple hit the reject button again. The company has declined to give yet another iPhone application access to its popular App Store.
The application is called Offender Locator. Offered by ThinAir Wireless, the application uses the iPhone's GPS capabilities to locate registered sex offenders who live in your neighborhood.
The banned software also highlights registered sex offenders who live near contacts in your iPhone address book. What's more, the application serves up a photo of the sex offender and a list of the committed offenses.
Some are suggesting that the application was pulled because it violated a California law prohibiting the sale of criminal information for profit. After yanking the paid version, the free version is still available for download on the App Store.
However, a similar application called Sex Offender Search remains available for $1.99, so it is unclear whether the competing application will also be pulled or if some other law is in question. Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.
Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret, said the hoopla over the App Store rejects is overblown. Of the 55,000 applications that have been approved, fewer than a dozen have been the center of developer outcry over the approval process.
"It's not like we're seeing Apple rejecting massive numbers [of] applications to the frustration of huge numbers of developers," Gartenberg said. "It's a non-story for the most part because it's affecting a very small number of developers and applications. Any time you have a process that's run by humans, there are going to be mistakes. But we've seen Apple constantly refining the process."
The Ninjawords Debate
In a related story, a typically tight-lipped Apple is actually moving to defend itself in the blogosphere. In an unusual move, Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president, replied to a Daring Fireball blog post earlier this week about Apple's reported censorship of an English dictionary called Ninjawords, developed by Matchstick Software, which has content Apple deemed "objectionable." Apple reportedly required the developer to eliminate words such as screw, cock and snatch, even though the dictionary offered non-derogatory meanings. The dictionary sells for $1.99 at the App Store.
In the blog post, Schiller said Apple did not censor the content and did not reject the developer's application for including references to common swear words. He noted that Apple has previously approved other dictionary applications in the App Store that include all of the "swear" words cited.
Apple Speaks Out
"The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable," Schiller said. "A quick search on Wiktionary.org easily turns up a number of offensive 'urban slang' terms that you won't find in popular dictionaries such as one that you referenced, the New Oxford American Dictionary included in Mac OS X."
Schiller went on to say that the Ninjawords developer decided to filter some offensive terms in its dictionary and resubmit it for approval for distribution in the App Store before parental controls were implemented. He said Apple did not ask the developer to censor any content in Ninjawords; rather, the developer took it upon itself to do so.
"Mr. Schiller had a compelling argument in terms of what the story was and why the developer went down the path it did," Gartenberg said. "People were jumping to conclusions, but when you listen to Apple's side of the story, it's a perfectly cogent argument [showing] how the developer wanted to work its way through [the] ecosystem."