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Apple removes fake review identifier from App Store following Amazon complaint [u]

Last updated

Amazon on Friday said it complained to Apple about an app called Fakespot, which it claims inaccurately identified fraudulent sellers and fake reviews, leading to the title's removal from the App Store.

Fakespot bills itself as a data analytics firm that applies artificial intelligence to the task of detecting false reviews and reviewers on a variety of sites including Amazon, TripAdvisor, Walmart and Yelp, according to its website. The goal of the program is to protect consumers from misleading information, the company says.

Amazon, which is facing a growing problem of fake or incentivized reviews, in a statement said Fakespot "provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms our sellers' businesses, and creates potential security risks" when it uses tools that do not adhere to Amazon's own grading system, reports CNET.

The e-commerce giant said it performed a review of Fakespot ratings and found that the third-party firm's findings were incorrect 80% of the time, the report said. Amazon also complained that a recent version of the Fakespot app was "wrapping" its website without permission, or allowing users to log in and view Amazon's storefront with a "secure shopping" overlay, reports The Verge. That unauthorized access, and the fact that Fakespot injects code into its website, could lead to data theft, Amazon contends.

In a statement to The Verge, Amazon said it believes Fakespot violates guideline 5.2.2, a rule dealing with third-party site and service permissions.

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 permitted to do so under the service's terms of use. Authorization must be provided upon request.

Amazon started the takedown process in June by informing Apple of potential App Store violations and the tech giant seemingly booted Fakespot from the App Store on Friday. Apple has not commented on the matter.

Fakespot founder Saoud Khalifah confirmed the takedown in a statement to The Verge, saying Apple alerted him to the removal in a three-line email.

"Apple hasn't even given us the ability to solve this," Khalifah said. "We just dedicated months of resources and time and money into this app."

Fakespot is commonly sited in reports about fraudulent Amazon reviews. That fact was apparently not lost on Amazon, which reportedly attempted to counter the third-party review rating app by purchasing search ads against the "Fakespot" keyword. Khalifah said his app was installed some 150,000 times on iOS.

"Amazon is willing to bully little companies like ours that showcase the cracks in their company," Khalifah said.

Update: Apple disagrees with Khalifah's take on the matter and in a statement to The Verge said Fakespot was informed of Amazon's complaint in June. The developer was given multiple warnings before its app was ultimately pulled from the App Store.

"This was a dispute over intellectual property rights initiated by Amazon on June 8 and within hours we ensured both parties were in contact with one another, explaining the issue and steps for the developer to take to keep their app on the store and giving them ample time to resolve the issue," Apple said. "On June 29, we again reached out to Fakespot weeks before removing their app from the App Store."

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