Tag Archives: Apple

Amphetamine App was Almost Removed from Mac App Store



A free app called Amphetamine, which helps keep your Mac awake, was almost removed from the Mac App Store. The reasons why are dubious because the app has been on the Mac App Store since 2014, and has absolutely nothing to do with drugs. In my opinion, Apple didn’t look very carefully at the Amphetamine app before removing it.

William Gustafson, the creator of the Amphetamine app, posted on GitHub some details about what happened. He was contacted by a representative from Apple who told him that the Amphetamine app would be removed from the Mac App Store on January 12, 2021, if changes to the app were not made.

According to William Gustafson, Apple stated that the Amphetamine app violated the following guideline: “Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except by licensed pharmacies) isn’t allowed.”

Apple further specified: “Your app appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically, your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills.”

In the GitHub post, William Gustafson wrote: “’Amphetamine’ is the brand name and identity of one of the apps that I have developed. Amphetamine is widely considered the go-to app for keeping your Mac awake. This is evidenced by its consistent ranking in the Mac App Store, as well as its inclusion in various major-player tech sites “best of…” Mac apps list…”

Apple eventually responded to William Gustafson’s appeal, and an Apple representative stated that Apple now recognizes that the word “amphetamine” and the pill icon are being used “metaphorically” and in a “medical sense”. As such, the app will remain in the Mac App Store.

To me, it sounds like someone who works for the Mac App Store made a big mistake. It is very clear that the Amphetamine app has absolutely nothing to do with drugs. I cannot help but wonder if the person who flagged the app because it appeared to be focusing on drugs feels a bit silly now for failing to take a close look at the Amphetamine app.


EFF Calls Facebook’s Campaign Against Apple “Laughable”



The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has shared its opinion about Facebook’s full-page newspaper ad campaign against Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency feature on iPhones. The EFF described Facebook’s campaign as “laughable”.

Facebook claimed that Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparancy for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14 “will hurt small businesses who benefit from access to targeted advertising services.” EFF points out that Facebook is not telling you the whole story. Facebook’s complaint, according to EFF, is what Facebook stands to lose if its users learn more about exactly what it and other data brokers are up to behind the scenes.

Bottom line: “The Association of National Advertisers estimates that, when the “ad tech tax” is taken into account, publishers are only taking home between 30 and 40 cents of every dollar [spent on ads]”. The rest goes to third-party data brokers who keep the lights on by exploiting your information, and not to small businesses trying to work within a broken system to reach their customers.

EFF pointed out that small businesses cannot compete with large ad distribution networks on their own. Because the ad industry has promoted this fantasy that targeted advertising is superior to other methods of reaching customers, anything else will inherently command less value on ad markets, EFF reported.

Personally, I think EFF did an excellent job of explaining why Facebook’s “laughable” campaign is a problem. Facebook is worried that Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency feature will hurt Facebook’s chance to make money off the data it collects from its users.

This has nothing to do with an attempt to help small businesses. In my opinion, Facebook realizes that people don’t like to be tracked, and that targeted ads can be creepy. What we are seeing is Facebook having a panic attack about the amount of money they could lose after Apple, by default, prevents apps from collecting and sharing people’s data.


Apple Temporarily Closes Stores (Again) Due to COVID-19



Apple has temporarily closed nearly one-fifth of its stores due to new COVID-19 restrictions, 9To5Mac reported. This is not the first time that Apple closed stores that were located in areas where there were spikes of COVID-19 cases. 95 Apple Stores across the globe have re-closed since Monday, December 14, 2020.

Apple announced closures of all its stores in California and Tennessee this weekend, adding to just over a dozen closures of Los Angeles stores announced on December 18. On Friday, California broke its record for most new COVID-19 cases in a single day since the pandemic began.

Bloomberg reported that Apple closed all 53 of its locations in California, one day after saying it would close stores in the Los Angeles area. The closures now cover major locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

MacRumors reported that all retail locations in California have a notice letting customers know that the stores are temporarily closed, though some are allowing for order pickups and genius bar appointments through December 22. There’s no word on when the stores will reopen, but they will remain closed through the holidays.

Stores in Tennessee were closed this weekend, MacRumors reported. Stores that are located in the UK’s Tier 4 restrictions shut down today. Apple closed 18 stores in Germany and the Netherlands last week, and stores in Mexico and Brazil are closing this weekend.

I think Apple is doing the right thing by temporarily closing these stores. It is a good way to help prevent their workers from being exposed to COVID-19. Doing so also prevents last-minute shoppers, who are in areas where COVID-19 is surging, from gathering in stores and potentially spreading the virus.


Apple Responded to Facebook’s Anti-Tracking Criticism



Apple has responded to Facebook’s criticisms about Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update. Specifically, Facebook appears to be angry that the update will require people to opt-in to targeted advertising and tracking.

Apple provided a statement to MacRumors about the update:

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites – and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires that they give users a choice.

Personally, I think that Apple’s decision to allow users to know when their data is being collected – and to have the choice to allow it or not – is a good one. I live in California, which enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). It requires that business that collect a consumer’s personal information must inform consumers about the categories of personal information to be collected and the purposes for which is it used. This must be done before the point of collection. It also allows people to tell a business not to sell their personal information to third parties.

Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update sounds like it is in compliance with the CCPA. It might also comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which also regulates data protection.

One of the best things about Apple’s iOS 14 update is that the default setting is to alert all users about how a specific app will use their data. Users don’t have to figure out how to prevent data collection and tracking – Apple already does that for them. That said, if you really want Facebook (and other apps) to collect your data, and sell it to third-parties, you will have the ability to opt-in to that.


Facebook Uses Questionable Claims to Attack Apple



Starting early next year, Apple will enable a change in an upcoming iOS 14 update that Facebook is really angry about. MacRumors reported that the change will require users to grant permission for their activity to be tracked for personalized advertising purposes. Facebook clearly does not want people to be able to opt-out of targeted advertising.

Bloomberg reported that Facebook Inc. purchased a series of full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post titled: “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere”.

In the full-page ad, Facebook claimed: “While limiting how personalized ads can be used does impact larger companies like us, these changes will be devastating to small businesses, adding to the many challenges they face right now.” To me, this is a very tiny acknowledgement that Apple’s iOS 14 update will harm Facebook’s ability to make money.

First off, it is questionable that Facebook calls targeted advertising “personalized ads”. Colorful language is often used to convince people that the thing that they do not want is somehow beneficial to them. This is especially true when a large company tries to persuade you to let them access your data.

Secondly, Facebook is hoping that you will believe that small businesses will become unsustainable if Apple users choose to opt-out of targeted advertising and tracking. That claim is questionable because the update hasn’t launched yet. Right now, there is absolutely no data that Apple’s privacy protection will kill off small businesses.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook is also upset about Apple’s newly launched “nutrition-label” style feature in its App Store. That feature outlines what data third-party apps collect. Bloomberg noted that Facebook may have seen this as an attack on Facebook’s app “given the amount of information it gathers.”


Apple Announces App Store Small Business Program



Apple announced the App Store Small Business Program. It will launch on January 1, 2021. The new program reduces App Store commission to 15 percent for small businesses earning up to $1 million per year.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our global economy and the beating heart of innovation and opportunity in communities around the world. We’re launching this program to help small business owners write the next chapter of creativity and prosperity on the App Store, and to build the kind of quality apps our customers love,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The App Store has been an engine of economic growth like none other, creating millions of new jobs and a pathway to entrepreneurship accessible to anyone with a great idea. Our new program carries that progress forward — helping developers fund their small businesses, take risks on new ideas, expand their teams, and continue to make apps that enrich people’s lives.”

Apple says the comprehensive details about the program will be released in early December. It has revealed the essentials of the program’s participation criteria.

  • Existing developers who made up to $1 million in 2020 for all of their apps, as well as developers new to the App Store, can qualify for the program and the reduced commission.
  • If a participating developer surpasses the $1 million threshold, the standard commission rate will apply for the remainder of the year.
  • If a developer’s business falls below the $1 million threshold in a future calendar year, they can requalify for the 15 percent commission the year after.

According to MacRumors, “The fee cut won’t benefit some of the developers that have been the most vocal about Apple’s commission rates, such as Epic Games, but it will relieve some of the pressure on the small business owners that need the most help.”


Apple Responded to macOS Privacy Concerns



It is clear that Apple’s macOS Big Sur installation had problems. The Verge reported that many Mac users had trouble opening apps after installing the update. You may have read an extremely detailed blog post by Jeffrey Paul titled “Your Computer Isn’t Yours”, in which he discussed a security problem involving the macOS.

It appears that iPhone in Canada was the first to report that Apple updated its support document titled: “Safely open apps on your Mac”. The update is under the Privacy protections header, which is the last header on the document.

Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.

Apple continued by stating: “These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.”

In addition, Apple is making changes to their security checks over the next year. Specifically:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
  • Strong protections against server failure
  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

It is not entirely clear if Apple’s update is in response to Jeffrey Paul’s blog post, but I suspect it may have influenced Apple to provide more clarification. I think the issue became a controversy because Apple’s developers understood how the security in the macOS functioned – but failed to realize that consumers might need more context in order to understand what was happening.