updated 01:10 am EDT, Thu September 15, 2011
Database of public figures seen as offensive
A Jewish developer of an app called "Jew or Not Jew?" has found his app removed from the App Store in France following a complaint from a French anti-racism group that threatened legal action. The app compiled a database of celebrities and public figures and identified which were Jewish. Apple says it removed the app not because of any perceived offense, but because the app violates a French law that forbids giving out personal details.
The .79 Euro (roughly $1) app, called "Juif ou pas Juif?" in French, is still available in App Stores outside France, and sells for $2 (and is still available) in the U.S. The developer, Johann Levy, says he came up with the app to satisfy curiousity in the Jewish community he grew up in, with people wanting to know if a given public figure was Jewish or not.
He sees the app as "recreational" and a way to reinforce pride in Jewish heritage by identifying prominent persons who are also Jewish, though he pointed out that his views may not be shared by all Jewish people. Levy says he compiled the data from publicly-available sources on the Internet.
The law the app is accused of violating was enacted after the Holocaust, where some 76,000 Jews were deported from Nazi-occupied France to concentration camps. Less than five percent of that number survived the experience. The law forbids private compiling of personal details on people (including race, sexuality, and political or religious affiliations) without their consent. Violations are punishable with up to five-year sentences and fines up to 300,000 Euros, or $412,000.
Levy has not yet been contacted by any authorities over the app. Developers are responsible for ensuring that their apps meet local laws in the stores in which they are sold.
An Apple spokesman said the app violated French law, and thus was removed from the French App Store. Anti-racism group SOSS Racisme called on the company to remove the app from all stores and be more vigilant about the applications it sells. Apple has removed a number of apps over the years for violating developer guidelines that forbid apps that offend or deliberately target large groups of people, often after organized protests or bad press brings the matter to public attention.
Earlier this summer, the company removed an app called ThirdIntifada after Jewish groups complained that it glorified violence against Israel. Other apps have been removed for condemning gay people or gay marriage.