Saturday, October 23, 2021

Apple and Google removed Russia’s fitness app, but not for what you think

Apple and Google are facing a backlash in Europe over their removal of one of Russia’s biggest apps from the stores that both control in the region.

The two companies removed the Pomeranov Stravat fitness app from their stores on April 18, after protests from users and tech experts. The app, popular among Russia’s most affluent people, lets users track their jogging or cycling activities on a website.

The apps deletions came on the heels of mounting pressure on Apple and Google from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere to force social media firms to better police their products for hate speech, fake news and other abuses of their platforms. The two tech giants have been trying to crack down on the third-party apps, including those that allow users to install spyware, spy on an individual or their entire household, and record people’s conversations, which they could then upload to the web.

Apple didn’t comment on why the app was removed, but Russia’s FSB security service said in a statement that it “must be banned due to its violating of the rules of those two markets.”

Google said it removed the app after it found “a pattern of unusual activity” suggesting suspicious activity had been committed using the app, a spokeswoman said in an email.

The decision prompted criticism from users. The @fbibomb Twitter account in Russia posted screenshots of the app disappearing from both Apple and Google’s store. The account has more than 33,000 followers. It’s unclear how many of those people downloaded the app.

“The timing is interesting, given that it’s running anti-gay propaganda,” the account, which is run by Russia’s Interior Ministry, wrote, referring to a law that bans propaganda against LGBT people. “We just hope it’s not banned for fake news.”

The Pomeranov Stravat app had more than 2 million users in March and was used by an estimated 700,000 people daily.

The company told Kommersant newspaper that Apple and Google had acted improperly.

“Our [preliminary] advice to users of the app is to launch it on alternative Android platforms,” the company wrote.

(h/t Business Insider)

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