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Friday, August 07, 2009, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Offender Locator iPhone software exiled from App Store by Apple

Offender Locator, a controversial, high-profile application that allowed users to find registered sex offenders, was removed from the App Store this week.

The software from ThinAir Wireless was priced at $0.99, and had resided among the top 10 selling applications in Apple's App Store for weeks. But according to CNet, the application was banished from the App Store for legal reasons.

While those reasons have not yet been made clear, some have speculated that it may be illegal in the state of California for anyone to profit from the sale of publicly-available criminal information. But according to a ThinAir Wireless employee, Sex Offenders Search, a competing application for $1.99, remained on sale even after Offender Locator had been pulled from the App Store.

The software allowed users to see nearby registered offenders based on the phone's current location or by manually entering an address. The program then pulled up a map with pinpoints for each nearby offender. The locations were each selectable, giving users access to the person's picture, a physical description, and information on what crime they were convicted of.

Other stories of applications being approved, only to be removed from the App Store later are not uncommon, though typically that software is not among the top 10 sellers. Perhaps the most high-profile previous reconsideration from Apple was GV Mobile, which was removed only after Apple rejected Google's own Voice application. Apple is even under investigation from the Federal Communications Commission for its rejection of the Google Voice software.

The news comes soon after Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, personally responded to criticism over the company's handling of a dictionary application with questionable content. The iPhone maker has repeatedly come under fire recently for how it handles the approval of applications for the App Store, from the length of time it takes for software to be reviewed to the availability of promotional codes.