Apple joins the growing list of U.S. companies that have cut ties with WikiLeaks in recent weeks by removing an application from its online app store. The app gave users access to the documents posted on the whistleblower site.
“We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harm’s way,” Apple said in a statement.
The WikiLeaks app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is an unofficial app and was not developed by anyone working for the controversial site. Along with giving users the ability to search through the leaked cables, users can get live updates from the site’s Twitter feed and donate to the organization. The app also forwarded users to WikiLeaks mirrors.
As Wired noted, the app didn’t do anything more than what was already possible using the Safari mobile browser.
The developer, Igor Barinov, posted on Twitter that the app was submitted to Apple on Dec. 11. It appeared in the store on Dec. 17. A mere three days later, Apple removed it from the store without telling Barinov why, he posted.
According to Barinov’s feed, there were 4,444 downloads, primarily from Germany and the United States, and made $5,840. The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Italy rounded out the top five countries by downloads.
Barinov had said he would donate $1 for each download to WikiLeaks. He also posted a screenshot showing that the app had been downloaded nine more times the day after Apple said it was removed.
The Android version of Barinov’s app is still available. In fact, there are a number of other WikiLeaks applications available for Android users ranging from free to paid. While some just alert users when new documents are posted, others give direct access to the documents.
According to the Guardian, there is still a way to get the iPhone app, but that it “borders on the edge of legality.”
According to Barinov’s feed, he is considering resubmitting it as a free app or tweaking it to get it re-approved into Apple’s app store.
As of now, there have been no documented instances of anyone coming to harm as a result of WikiLeak’s releases. As to whether Apple would pull an issue of The New York Times, which has an iPad app, if it published WikiLeaks documents, Apple declined to comment.
Anonymous posted on its Twitter account, “Please people, open eyes. This is censorship, it has no other name.”
In past weeks, several U.S. companies, including Amazon.com, Bank of America, PayPal and EveryDNS, have withdrawn services for WikiLeaks citing various violations of the Terms of Service, ranging from distributing content they didn’t own to causing harm. While government officials have made no secret of wanting to see the site isolated and shut down, it has denied applying overt pressure on any of the corporations. The site’s supporters have engaged in retaliatory tactics, such as distributed denial of service attacks and boycotts, against these companies as a result.