updated 06:10 pm EDT, Tue September 27, 2011
Wants buyers to lose access to 'Jewish file' app
In a strange twist on an ongoing drama in France, a Jewish developer who created an iOS app that identifies public figures who are Jewish has drawn the ire of a group fighting against anti-Semitism, saying compiling such a file (even for heritage purposes) is against French law. The group, which has already convinced Apple to pull the app from the French App Store, is now arguing in court that Apple should remotely delete all copies of the app, French news site MacGeneration reports.
The app, which was called "Juif ou pas Juif?" in French, originally sold for approximately $1 in the French App Store before a public outcry forced Apple to pull the program. Developer Johann Levy, himself Jewish, came up with the idea for the app to satisfy the curiousity of his own community about whether notable public figures were Jewish or not. He says he compiled the list from publicly-available sources on the internet, and sees the app as "recreational" and a way to reinforce pride in Jewish heritage, though he is quick to say that his view may not be shared by all Jewish people.
The French law the app is accused of violating dates back to just after World War II and the Holocaust, and forbids private compiling of personal details on people (including religious affiliations) without their consent. Violations are punishable with up to five-year sentences and fines up to 300,000 Euros ($412,000), in part as a strong disincentive to racist or anti-Semitic groups in France, which has had an ongoing issue with far-right hate groups -- particularly as more immigrants have come into the country.
The app, which is still available and sells for $2 under the name "Jew or Not Jew?" in the U.S. and other countries, doesn't violate any laws outside of France, prompting Apple to pull the app from the French store only after complaints and legal threats from a group called SOS Racisme. Another group, La Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l'antisémitisme (The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, known as La Licre), has now gone to court and asked a judge to order Apple to remotely delete the app from customer's iOS devices who have already downloaded it.
Apple Chairman Steve Jobs himself confirmed the ability of the company to remotely delete apps if absolutely necessary, using "kill switch" technology embedded in iOS back in 2008; at the time, he described the technology as being an ultimate defense against user-data compromise or a wildly misbehaving app, and said he hoped the company would never have to use it, but that it would be "irresponsible" not to provide for the possibility. To date, Apple has never used the technology.
Both Amazon and Google, on the other hand, have resorted to remote deletions of paid apps -- the former when a bookseller revoked the right of Kindle users to buy certain titles and the latter in the case of rogue apps that spread malware. In both cases, users were not notified beforehand, but were eventually credited back any money spent.
La Licra has asked for and been assigned a justice to consider the question of having Apple remotely delete any French copies of the app that still exist. The hearing, which will take place at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, is set for October 6th. [via MacGeneration]