The app developer calls into question Apple’s ability to determine if an app violates privacy.
What you need to know
- Apple has rejected an app that would verify ballots in Pennsylvania.
- The app uses contact info and Facebook paired with publicly available ballot information.
- Apple says that the app violates the App Store privacy rules.
Reported by The Information (via AppleInsider), Apple has rejected an app that was built to verify ballots in Pennsylvania. While the app was approved is available for download through the Google Play Store, Apple says that the app violates its App Store privacy guidelines.
The app, called Drive Turnout, was reportedly held up in Apple’s App Store review process for two weeks before finally being rejected completely.
After almost two weeks of holding up the release of the app, called Drive Turnout, Apple on Thursday told the developer behind it, Ari Steinberg, that the app violates the company’s privacy rules and that Apple won’t release it. It was a curious decision. Steinberg’s app relies on information that is publicly available on a Pennsylvania state website, which allows anyone with a voter’s name, date of birth and county of residence to verify that that voter’s ballot has been counted.
The app asked users to share access to their contacts and Facebook friends to find out who may have not yet had their ballot counted.
Drive Turnout, which was approved by Google for distribution on Android, allows users to identify Pennsylvania residents in their iPhone Contacts and Facebook accounts by syncing those databases with the app. The software then conducts a ballot status check using publicly available information from the Pennsylvania state website. The site allows anyone to search for ballot status if they have a voter’s name, date of birth and county of residence. Users are able to reach out to contacts whose votes are in jeopardy of not being counted.
According to the app’s description, it uses the information you share as well as publicly available voter information to identify the people that you may want to reach out to vote.
“The Drive Turnout app helps you manage all this. We can help you keep track of which of your contacts are in PA, which ones have already voted successfully vs which ones you need to check up on, etc. You’re in full control of any communication you want to do with those people.”
Apple rejected the app, saying that developers are not allowed to collect personal information from “any source that is not directly from the user or without the user’s explicit consent, even public databases.” Ari Steinberg, the developer behind the app, questioned Apple’s authority to determine if the app violated privacy.
“If there’s a story here to tell, the story is asking the question, Should it be Apple making these decisions? Why does it fall to them to make a call on whether it’s creepy or not?”
The rejection of the app comes less than a week before the United States presidential election which is set to occur on Tuesday, November 3.