As social networks race to curb the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and Amazon tries to weed out price-gouging Purell listings, Apple is taking its own stance: rejecting coronavirus apps submitted by iOS app developers who aren’t affiliated with official health organisations or governments, CNBC reported.
A search for coronavirus in the iOS App Store turns up a few official health apps and a few games related to viruses. But four app developers told CNBC they tried to submit apps that make use of World Health Organisation data to help people track the spread of COVID-19, only to be rejected by Apple.
According to CNBC, at least one developer received a written notice from Apple that “apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognised institution.”
The developers are miffed, particularly ones who have submitted apps with high ratings in the past. But Apple recently updated its App Store Guidelines, and it would appear that the most recent addition would cover coronavirus-related apps:
“Apps that provide services in highly-regulated fields (such as banking and financial services, healthcare, and air travel) or that require sensitive user information should be submitted by a legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer.”
Fighting misinformation about the coronavirus is like playing whack-a-mole for some companies, but Apple is able to stem the tide before a dumb app gains traction and convinces people that vodka can replace hand sanitizer if you just wish hard enough. If the company does, in fact, require developers to be affiliated with official health organisations or governments, it’s honestly not the worst thing to ever happen. It might actually be a good, wise decision that prevents harm.
The argument against this is that Apple has too much power over the apps allowed in the App Store. In many cases, that argument holds water. During a public health crisis in which misinformation could literally cause death? Maybe not.
Google also has rules for its Google Play store that prevent apps that capitalise on natural disasters or tragic events. Searching for coronavirus results in zero results.
Gizmodo has reached out to Apple for comment and will update this story with a response.