Apple deleted Fakespot, a popular app that detects fake product 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 falsely informs customers.
Fakespot has long been a staple in the browser-based shopping world, but has launched its first iOS app in June 2021. This app overlays Amazon’s website with custom code, alerting buyers to potential bogus reviews and in some cases suggesting highly rated products that might be of interest to users.
Amazon sent Apple a takedown request shortly after this app went live. And obviously, Amazon had a lot to complain about – in a statement to The edge, Amazon says that the Fakespot app presents “misleading information about our sellers and their products” and, more importantly, “creates potential security risks” because customers must expose their Amazon information to Fakespot in order to use its application.
That seems like a valid concern, especially in an age when people are hyper aware of phishing and data collection (I personally wouldn’t connect to Amazon through a third party). Apple says Fakespot was taken down for violating App Store Directive 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 authorized to do so in the terms of service for the service. Authorization must be provided upon request.
Obviously, Fakespot violated this policy. But there are a few things that can be done in favor of the company. For starters, Amazon hasn’t done that 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 go after Honey after purchasing it through Paypal, apparently for no reason.)
I should also point out that Amazon has a financial incentive to delegitimize external auditors like Fakespot. Yes, Amazon can use the data it collects to find more fake reviews than a third party like Fakespot ever could. But because Amazon has spent years deny that she has a problem with the crooks, it is very difficult for clients to trust the integrity of the company in this area. That’s why the Fakespot iOS app recorded more than 150,000 downloads just weeks after its release.
To Amazon’s credit, he’s spent the past two years in a tirade against fraudulent sellers. This is destroyed thousands of counterfeit products, opened a “crime unit, aggressively prohibited sellers who pay for reviews, and published long reports detailing its progress against bogus ads. But these problems are permanent, they are not solved at all.
People will continue to use tools like Fakespot because there are fake reviews on Amazon. If Amazon truly believes these detection tools are a security risk, which they can be, then the company needs to redouble its efforts to correct the flaws in its market. Hopefully Fakespot can find a way to offer its services to mobile users without breaking Apple’s guidelines.
Source: The edge