Apple Rejected One Million Apps in 2020, Including Chameleon Gambling Software

By | May 13, 2021

Apple said Tuesday it turned down almost a million apps from inclusion in its App Store in 2020. Around 95,000 of these were rejected because of “fraudulent violations,” the tech giant said.

Apple App store
Apple has admitted that its vetting process does not catch every single rogue app. (Image: Android Authority)

These included so-called chameleon apps, which can surreptitiously transform from innocuous-seeming software into casinos or pornography apps to reach markets where such things are illegal.

Additionally, some 150,000 prospective apps were nixed because they were “spam, copycats, or misleading to users,” while 215,000 were removed because they collected too much user data or broke privacy rules.

“Threats have been present since the first day the App Store launched on iPhone, and they’ve increased in both scale and sophistication in the years since,” the company said in a statement. “Apple has likewise scaled its efforts to meet those threats, taking relentless steps forward to combat these risks to users and developers alike.”

Bad Apples

However, the Cupertino, California-based company conceded there was room for error and that some rogue apps do slip through the net.

It uses a combination of automated checks and 500 human reviewers to review roughly 5 million apps a year. It is “impossible” to catch every single rogue app, said Apple.

In August 2018, Apple announced it had removed 25,000 apps from the Chinese App Store after being berated by China’s state media for failing to protect citizens from gambling and pornography. Apple claims to abide by the local laws of the markets in which it operates.

But in September 2019, Cybersecurity company Trend Micro uncovered “hundreds” of chameleon apps targeting the Chinese market – some of which were included in Top 100 lists and had been rated over 100,000 times.

Epic Battle

Apples’ admission of fallibility comes as a high-profile antitrust case brought by Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, has brought the App Store into hard focus.

Epic has challenged Apple’s ban on apps having their own in-app purchases outside those offered by the App Store. The video games publisher says it wants to offer its own iOS app store so it can circumvent Apple’s 30 percent fee on App Store purchases.

Epic says the store is a “walled garden” that traps users and developers in an anti-competitive market.

Epic’s lawyers have also attacked Apple’s vetting process, which they have argued allows malicious or fraudulent software to proliferate.

The spat blew up last August when Epic told customers it would attempt to bypass the Apple payments system for in-app purchases. That caused the tech giant to remove the game from the App store, cutting access for billions.

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