Apple's iOS version of the border-guard simulator Papers, Please was set to have been released with bits cut out at the behest of Apple.
Games developer Lucas Pope planned to release Papers, Please on iOS but without the feature that shows immigrants completely nude during the security scan. That's because Apple rejected the app when Pope originally submitted it, and the company explained
it was because it is pornographic.
Apple is now stepping back from that classification, according to Pope, with Apple claiming that rejection for porn was a misunderstanding on their part. Apple suggested that the game should be resubmitted complete with the nudity option.
While this is a win for Pope, Apple's control over its closed system will likely continue to trouble other developers. A freelance games designer, Tadhg Kelly wrote an open letter to Tim Cook of Apple on this subject of censorship:
I'm a huge fan of Apple's products including my new iPhone 6 Plus. It's gorgeous. I'm even more of a fan of what Apple has done for games in the last half decade. Prior to the App Store, selling games to the mass market was an expensive and difficult
mess of approvals by powers-that-be, often at massive disadvantage to the game maker. Apple opened that closed shop, which in turn spawned multiple revolutions. It led to many new kinds of game, new powers, new economics for games and a whole raft of
I bring these examples up to frame my appreciation and disappointment appropriately. I think you're doing an incredible job but there is one area in which you're letting me down badly: Censorship.
Movies might get age certificates and music might get stickers warning of offensive lyrics, but they don't get banned. They used to. From the early days of pulping books like Ulysses through to the Comics Code and video nasties , every medium has
had to face allegations of offense or indecency. Every one has had to make the case that their material is worthy of being treated as free expression. And -- thankfully -- they've all won. Except games.
Game developers are regularly treated as second class media citizens. It was only in 2011, 40 years after their creation, that video games were finally declared to be a protected form of free speech by the Supreme Court. Throughout the history of the
industry we have had self-policing, legal suppression, publisher, platform and retailer demands for creative changes to games based on censorship. Some are ridiculous (bans against showing blood) and some are allegations of prurience (nudity in games)
and some are baseless fears of corruption (video game violence).
Whether it's a console or a big retail chain, we game makers have long had to put up with a level of interference that no other medium faces. We're consistently told what our medium should be like, often by people with a poor understanding of it. We
frequently get accused of leading the world astray in ways that are not supportable. All this at a time when the first generation of game makers is passing the torch ( Ralph Baer RIP ). The second generation often wants to make fun games, but some of
them want to use games for other means. Games like Depression Quest and dys4ia , for example. Games like Papers Please . Games like Sweatshop . Games like Howling Dogs .
But even though Apple has done many amazing things for our industry in liberalizing its economics (with great thanks) the company nevertheless buys into the urge to suppress games. And it's just morally wrong. Tim I don't believe that this is a position
that you're actively taking. I think it's happened as a result of a couple of related issues that have bred an awkward censorship.
First there was the issue of trying to keep iOS relatively consumer friendly by keeping porn away. Apple's position has been that people are welcome to go out onto the Web and do as they wish. If they really want their adult material, Safari is their
gateway. Second was the fact that because games are made in software there is frequently confusion in many minds over whether they are a medium or a product. Approval of software is essentially a checklist of what's permitted or not, much as a technical
requirements, violations, bugs and so on. It's (mostly) entirely binary.
The problem for us game makers is that the Safari answer usually doesn't work for us. Software is not permitted to get to iOS devices via the Web because to do so invites malware, and that would be a major problem for such a high-profile platform. And
secondly evaluating games in the manner of software checklists strips them of context. It is literally this game contains boobs as in Lucas Pope's Papers Please . Ban or change.
It doesn't feature whether those boobs are appropriate or not, as they might in other media. Via Apple today I can purchase Game of Thrones episodes or Lady Chatterley's Lover even though both have invited questions of appropriate content in their time.
Why? Because Apple understands context. Media gets protected even though some would find it offensive because it matters. Except for games. If a game is philosophically seen as like an app then it falls under a certain remit. If a game is philosophically
seen as like a book or album, it goes another way. Shifting from one to the other view is what needs to change.
I imagine that the experience of the team vetting Papers Please was a little like the Fox censor character from the Simpsons . He reads a script and marks no, no, no then sees a joke which makes him laugh out loud before marking it no . I
imagine that in playing Papers Please or many of the other banned or censored games on iOS that the team knew it was good but had no option to approve it. It didn't fit the checklist.
I don't mean to make light of your own situation, but Tim you know what it is to express your true self . You know that being free is important, supremely important. Yet through a series of circumstances the company founded by one of the designers of
Breakout finds itself in this position of saying no, of insisting that games fit in a box and be culturally relegated. Great revenues maybe, but creatively they're not being allowed to be all they can be on your platform.
Would taking the view that games are media and thus not censoring them alter the bottom line of the App Store? I doubt it. Would it need some thought as regards age categories and appropriate handling? I would think so, yes. So it's likely a net drag to
actually do it. But you should do it anyway.
It's been a hard fought battle for some of us within the games industry to get to the point where we're not thought of as drug dealers or child-corrupting monsters. We're trying to overcome that Comics-Code perception, and slowly succeeding even despite
resistance within and without. The big platforms often still stand in our way, still act like games should only exist in certain boxes, but they're slowly shifting.
Tim you control the biggest gaming platform in the world. Mobile games will surpass PC and console soon enough, and when they do they will become the new core gaming . The games won't all be just Candy Crush and Clash of Clans forever though, any more
than TV stayed as its 1960s incarnation forever. Communities and cultures form around games in a way that's important to the overall culture, and will only increasingly do so.
Given your position of power do you really feel it's your place to stand in the way of the development of a medium? To say game developers you get to live in this box only . I don't think you mean to, but that's kind of where you are. Tim I need
Apple to lead on this, as it has so often before.
A settlement has been reached in a three-year legal case about accusations that software installed on millions of smartphones spied on users.
In 2011, a security researcher claimed that the Carrier IQ app tracked everything users did on their phones. The discovery led to consumers taking joint legal action against Carrier IQ and phone makers. The legal action claimed the surreptitious
way the app ran broke several US computer crime laws including those covering wiretapping and fraud.
US security expert Trevor Eckhart uncovered the Carrier IQ app and showed it collecting key presses, recording which websites people visited as well as where they were geographically located. Eckhart found Carrier IQ's app on many Android phones. A
cut-down version was also found on some Apple handsets.
Carrier IQ claimed mobile operators used its app as a tool to monitor network performance.
Negotiations are due to take place on 12 November to hammer out the fine details of the legal claim.
As reported last week in the Wall Street Journal , Google has banned the privacy and security app Disconnect Mobile from the play store. By doing so, Google has shown once again that it cares more about allowing third-parties to monetize the
tracking of its users than about allowing those users to ensure their own security and privacy. The banned app, Disconnect Mobile , is designed to stop non-consensual third party trackers on Android (much like EFF's Privacy Badger does in Firefox or
Chrome). Disconnect released their app in the Android Play Store and Apple's App Store a little over a week ago. Google removed the app just five days after it was released, citing a section of their rules that states that developers agree not to use the
Play Store to distribute apps that interfere with or disrupt the services of any third party.
On its face this may seem like a reasonable rule--it would block DDOS tools from the Play Store, for example--but on further inspection it's obvious that this rule is overly vague, allowing Google to be selective in its enforcement. After all, any
antivirus app or firewall could be considered to be violating these terms of service, since they would interfere with the services of a (malicious) third-party. Yet firewall and antivirus apps abound in the Play Store. Clearly enforcement of this clause
So why is Disconnect Mobile being targeted? This question seems especially puzzling given that Disconnect's goal--blocking non-consensual third-party trackers--is as virtuous as the goals of any antivirus or firewall app. After all, who would want
shadowy services collecting their browsing habits across the Internet without their consent? An app that blocks trackers like this seems like it would be a great thing to have in the Play Store, especially when you consider that the trackers it blocks
can be used for nefarious goals such as spreading malware and spying on civilians . Simply put, technologies such as Disconnect and Privacy Badger are important for the security and privacy of end users. They are also incredibly popular--within days of
being in the Apple App store Disconnect is already the number one utility app.
So again, why is Disconnect Mobile being targeted? The problem lies in the fact that many online advertisers participate in this sneaky tracking in order to build up reading profiles of users for marketing purposes, whether users have opted in or not. As
a result, Disconnect Mobile blocks these types of ads--even though ad-blocking is incidental to its primary goal. Because of this, Google has deemed Disconnect Mobile to be interfering with these sneaky third-party services--services its users
don't want. In other words, Google appears to be interpreting its rules to mean that apps that interfere with Google's business model will be banned, rather than apps that interfere with user security and privacy. By removing this app from
the Play Store Google is putting its users at risk and sending the message that it cares more about its bottom line than its users' security.
A friendly cartoon vulva called Happy has the dubious honour of being the latest app Apple has rejected from its App Store. As the star of HappyPlayTime, gamers touch her as instructed to make her happy, learning about how to please their own bodies in
the process. Think educational and empowering, rather than Redtube.
Creator Tina Gong said:
I admit, it's pretty far out there. You're using your touch screen to play with a vulva character to make her orgasm.
It's something that has a huge potential of making certain groups angry. As a large company, I'm sure that they're trying to stay away from controversy. I get it, but it still makes me sad.
HappyPlayTime lists its objectives as eliminate stigma, encourage exploration and make you giggle .
The app was twice rejected on two violations of its rules, namely apps that present excessively objectionable content and apps containing pornographic material.
Tijuana Baby , a novel by Robert Haukoos has been banned from the Apple iBooks store for supposedly 'inappropriate' cover art.
Tijuana Baby is a debut novel from Robert Haukoos and tells the story of two L.A. filmmakers who get trapped in Tijuana trying to save a 14-year-old girl from being forced into prostitution by a wicked drug smuggler. Author Robert Haukoos said:
It's disappointing that Apple iBooks has chosen to ban this book. It's a mystery why they declined to accept a serious novel with tasteful artwork that reflects the actual subject matter of the book, when their catalogue includes a broad selection of
explicit and violent songs, movies and video games.
Publisher Oliver Fribourg of Les Editions des Equateurs told online news site The Local that It's extraordinary in the year 2014 that this kind of censorship can happen. The company is so infuriated by what it sees as an act of censorship which
acts against the liberty of creation, that it has called on France's Minister of Culture to intervene.
The Daily Telegraph has decided to take a pop at Google's Play Store for mobile apps. There doesn't seem much evidence of 'outrage' but when did that ever stop the tabloids.
The Telegraph rolls out the outrage bandwagon:
Google is profiting from the sale of hundreds of pornographic images and books depicting sadistic acts, incest and rape which are readily available to children. It is selling titles with graphic images and content alongside children's literature on its
Google Play book store.
More than 100 of the books are in fact little more than pornographic magazines and openly advertise the fact that they contain hundreds of graphic images. Free samples are available to download, and they can be accessed on computers, tablets and mobile
Despite the graphic nature of the images Google has no age verification in place or parental restrictions, other than requiring a child to declare that they are aged 13 and above to use the Google Play store.
One parent wrote to her MP, Stephen Barclay to raise her concerns after discovering that her son had been downloading the images on his phone:
I feel they are not bothered about this problem. I don't think many parents are aware of this situation so [they] are unable to keep their children safe, as Google keeps advertising. I would like ... to find a solution through government to put a stop to
this situation and make Google more responsible.
A Google spokesman said that the company did not issue age-ratings for books because there is no certification system. The company argues that:
A 13--year-old could freely walk into any book store and browse/purchase any book he/she chose to pick up.
The Guardian reveals mass that state snoops have a programme of mass interception and analysis of people's phone messages:
The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.
The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages -- including their contacts -- is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK's Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of untargeted and unwarranted communications belonging to people in the UK.
The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects pretty much everything it can , according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.
The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people's travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more -- including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity.
Big Brother Watch responds with some pertinent questions:
Today's Guardian newspaper carries an alarming report about an NSA database of text messages, including those sent by British people. While messages belonging to US citizens are deleted, those belonging to British citizens are not.
First we need to know how the NSA was able to get access to UK telephone networks and scoop up millions of our texts. Then we need to know who authorised it and why they decided to hand over the private messages of people under no suspicion whatsoever to
the Americans without any public or Parliamentary debate.
If an interception warrant for an individual is not in place, it is illegal to look at the content of a message. Descriptions of content derived metadata suggest the content of texts is being collected and inspected in bulk and if this is the case GCHQ
has serious questions to answer about whether it is operating under a perverse interpretation of the law cooked up in secret.
The telecoms companies providing our mobile phone services need to urgently reassure their customers that they are not handing over our data in bulk to the UK or US governments. GCHQ should not be using foreign agencies to get around British laws.