Engadget is reporting that iPhone hacker, Jonathan Zdziarski, has discovered an app blacklisting capability in the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows Apple to remotely disable apps on your device. The device phones home on occasion to check if any apps that have been blacklisted are on the device. If so, Apple can remotely disable the apps on your device, even after you have paid for it and downloaded it.
There are a couple of reasons to be angered here. While a case could certainly be made that it is for the security of the device when trying to stop programs that have Trojans or something built in, I don’t think that is the real issue here. First, this is happening without your knowledge!
Apple should have been upfront about this kind of “feature” rather than burying it deep in a configuration file so that a hacker had to find it. Apple should not be secretly altering things in a users device, especially for apps that they have purchased. This is an extreme violation of privacy and it makes little sense. If you have to approve apps before they go on the apps store, why would you later blacklist such an app? If you had done your job in the first place, a problem app would never hit the app store!
With no acknowledgment about this from Apple, there is no stated policy of what happens with the money that was spent on the app. Do you get a refund if an app that you have is blacklisted? Does the creator of the blacklisted app still get his 70% of every purchase? Does Apple keep their 30% for having distributed the app in the first place? There are far more questions than answers here and until Apple opens up and clarifies this issue. Where does the money go?!
Apple must face the music and give details about what is going on here. Considering the fact that the 3G iPhone is still selling like crazy, it cant afford a black eye like this that could put a dent in the rate of adoption. I am now rethinking my idea of purchasing a 32GB iPod Touch for this reason (the outrageous price doesn’t help either).
Post your thoughts on this issue in the comments as this is something that deserves a real discussion.