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Apple removes Fakespot from App Store after Amazon complains



The Amazon shopping app in the Google Play Store on an Android smartphone.

Christoph Dernbach | picture alliance | Getty Images

Apple has removed Fakespot, a well-known app for detecting fake product reviews, from the App Store after Amazon complained about the app providing misleading information and potential security risks.

The Fakespots app works by analyzing the credibility of an Amazon listing reviews and giving it a rating of A to F. It gives customers recommendations on products with high customer satisfaction.

Amazon said it reported Fakespot to Apple for investigation after it became concerned that a redesigned version of the app was confusing consumers by displaying Amazon̵

7;s website in the app with Fakespot code and content superimposed on it. Amazon said that applications are not allowed to do this. A spokesman for Amazon claimed: “The app in question provides customers with misleading information about the sellers and their products, harms the sellers’ business and creates potential security risks.”

On Friday afternoon, after a review from Apple, the app was no longer available on the App Store.

Misleading or fake user reviews have proven to be a major problem for online retailers, including Amazon. The company has recently stepped up its efforts to detect and remove false reviews. The third-party market, which consists of millions of sellers, has grown to account for more than half of the company’s total sales, but it has become a breeding ground for false reviews, counterfeits and unsafe products. Regulators in the United States and abroad have taken steps to curb fake reviews on and off Amazon.

As fake reviews continue to spread the internet, third-party apps and websites have sprung up to help customers spot them, such as Fakespot, ReviewMeta and ReconBob.

Amazon reported the well-known fake review detector app Fakespot to Apple for investigation, and triggered removal from the App Store.

Amazon

It’s unclear why Apple removed Fakespot from the App Store, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Amazon pointed out to CNBC two subsections of Apple’s App Store policy that Fakespot may have violated. One guideline is that apps must ensure that they are allowed to use, access, monetize or access content from a third-party service. Another guideline is that apps should not contain false information and features.

Amazon also claims that Fakespot’s coding technology enables the app to collect and track information from customers. In January, the company filed a lawsuit against PayPal-owned Honey, a browser extension that allows users to find coupons while shopping online, and warns users that there may be a “security risk.”

Fake spot: ‘They have shown zero evidence’

In an interview, Fakespot founder and CEO Saoud Khalifah said he disputed Amazon’s claim that the app poses a security risk and said that while Fakespot does not collect any user data, it does not sell it to third parties.

Khalifah added that many apps use the same coding technique, called “wrapping”, to include a browser view, such as coupon providers. He said many apps and websites also collect and track user information, including Amazon.

“We do not steal users’ information, we have never done so,” Khalifah said. “They have shown zero evidence, and Apple acted on this with zero evidence.”

Fakespot released a new version of its app at the end of May. Amazon reported the app to Apple in mid-June, Khalifah said.

Khalifah said he was upset that Apple did not give Fakespot a sufficient warning that the app would be taken down from the App Store, or the ability to fix problems with the app.

“Imagine going to a tenant and saying you have to take all your things, you have to go right now. That’s how I feel right now, to be pretty honest with you,” he added.

The Fakespots app is still available on the Google Play Store for Android devices starting Friday night.


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