Fakespot, known for its browser extensions that try to weed out fake product reviews, suddenly no longer has an iPhone or iPad app – because Amazon sent Apple a removal request, both Amazon and Fakespot confirm, and Apple decided to remove the app.
The giant retailer says it was concerned about how a new update to the Fakespot app “packed” its site without permission, and how it could theoretically be used to steal customer data from Amazon. But Fakespot founder Saoud Khalifah says The Verge that Apple suddenly removed the app today without any explanation. Apple did not respond to further requests for comment.
The new Fakespot app was launched just over a month ago on June 3, and I can confirm that it allows you to log in to Amazon, browse and buy items with Fakespot̵
Thanks to all our users for making this new iOS app a reality. Together we will end e-commerce fraud. We soon have several fantastic products that will make secure shopping the gold standard for e-commerce. https://t.co/UyUnsOydzK
– Fakespot (@FakespotTweets) June 21, 2021
But in mid-June, says Fakespot’s founder, Amazon launched a removal notice. And just a few hours ago, Apple finally delivered a blunt three-line post about how it regretted that the situation could not be resolved amicably, and that Fakespot has now been removed from the App Store. “Apple has not even given us the opportunity to solve this,” says Khalifah. “We have only devoted months of resources and time and money to this app.”
Amazon tells us that they believe Fakespot violated Apple Policy 5.2.2, which reads:
Amazon also tells us that Fakespot injects code into its website, opens an attack vector and endangers customer data (including email, addresses, credit card information and your browser history), even though it says they do not know if Fakespot actually uses this information.
“The app in question provides customers with misleading information about the sellers and their products, harms the sellers’ business and creates potential security risks. We appreciate Apple’s review of this app against the Appstore guidelines, ”said a statement from Amazon.
But while Fakespot admits that the app injects code to show its own scores, he categorically denies that there is any vulnerability and points out that apps that include a browser service are common – including coupon apps that Amazon seems to “have no problem packing around a web view browser. “
Either way, it’s a blow to one of the biggest outspoken critics of Amazon’s review system, as Fakespot is regularly quoted in reviews of review scams on Amazon. Amazon even bought search ads for the keyword “Fakespot” in the App Store to reduce the app’s potential impact:
“Amazon is willing to bully small companies like ours that show the cracks in their company,” says Khalifah, suggesting that Amazon must have realized that people chose their app over the Amazon app. He says Fakespot collected 150,000 installations from the iOS App Store, without spending money on marketing.
Amazon states that it regularly monitors companies that try to call out fake reviews and claims that Fakespot’s ratings are largely incorrect: “We regularly rate products where Fakespot rated product reviews as unreliable and their findings were incorrect more than 80% of the time. They simply do not have the information we have – such as reviewer, seller and product history – to accurately determine the authenticity of a review. Amazon suggests that it does a much better job of finding fake reviews even by analyzing 30 million of them every week, although it has clearly not stopped the fake and incentivized review problems yet – something we are still investigating The Verge.
Amazon will not say whether Google has been contacted about the Android version of the app, but that app has not been updated since 2019.
Fakespot’s founder says that the company is weighing its legal possibilities now because they believe that mobile is the future of shopping. “We see percentages of 60/40 now hovering in the mobile’s favor,” Khalifah tells me.