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Apple has removed Fakespot, a popular app that detects fake products reviews, from the iOS App Store. The takedown was initiated by Amazon, which complains that Fakespot’s new iOS app poses a security risk and misinforms customers.

Fakespot has long been a staple of the browser-based shopping world but launched its first iOS app in June 2021. This app overlays the Amazon website with custom code, alerting shoppers to potential fake reviews and, in some cases, suggesting highly rated products that users may be interested in.

Amazon sent a takedown request to Apple shortly after this app went live. And evidently, Amazon had a lot to complain about—in a statement to The Verge, Amazon says that the Fakespot app presents “misleading information about our sellers and their products” and, more importantly, “creates potential security risks,” as customers must expose their Amazon info to Fakespot to use its app.

This seems like a valid concern, especially at a time when people are hyperaware of phishing and data collection (personally, I wouldn’t log into Amazon through a third party). Apple clarifies that Fakespot was pulled for violating App Store guideline 5.2.2, which exists to prevent copyright infringement, fraud, phishing, and other issues.

5.2.2 Third-Party Sites/Services: If your app uses, accesses, monetizes access to, or displays content from a third-party service, ensure that you are specifically permitted to do so under the service’s terms of use. Authorization must be provided upon request.

Clearly, Fakespot violated this policy. But there are a few points to make in the company’s favor. For starters, Amazon hasn’t made this kind of pushback against coupon apps that overlay code on its website, even though they create the same “security risks” as Fakespot. (That said, Amazon did lash out at Honey after it was purchased by Paypal, seemingly for no reason.)

I should also point out that Amazon has a financial incentive to delegitimize outside auditors like Fakespot. Yes, Amazon can use the data it gathers to find more fake reviews than a third party like Fakespot ever could. But because Amazon has spent years denying that it has a problem with scammers, it’s very difficult for customers to trust the company’s integrity in this area—that’s why the Fakespot iOS app racked up over 150,000 downloads just a few weeks after its release.

To Amazon’s credit, it’s spent the last two years on a tirade against scammy sellers. It’s destroyed thousands of counterfeit products, opened a “crimes unit,” aggressively banned sellers that pay for reviews, and published long reports detailing its progress against fake listings. But these problems are ongoing, they are not at all resolved.

People will continue using tools like Fakespot because there are fake reviews on Amazon. If Amazon truly believes that these detection tools are a security risk, which they may be, then the company needs to make a better effort to fix the flaws in its marketplace. Hopefully Fakespot can find a way to offer its services to mobile users without breaking Apple’s guidelines.

Source: The Verge

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