Freedom app removed from the iOS App Store


#1

Hi folks. Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I’m the CTO of Freedom. After years of being in the app store, Apple has recently removed our app. I thought this group might be interested in this story. You can read more about it here:


#2

(I’ve edited your post, so the URL’s are displayed with link preview, give more info)

Wow, that is serious news. First of all, let me say that you have a wonderful product, a true humane tech app, that you could present in ‘Humane Design > Exemplars’ category for discussion on its humane aspects.

On Hacker News there were some recent threads (like Apple’s best product is now privacy) that discussed whether Apple is a (the most) privacy-respecting company, and deliberately has privacy as a unique-selling point (USP) - or that their position regarding privacy/security more or less accidentally emerged from the fact that they are a walled garden with proprietary services and hardware lock-in.

They sure benefit from the fact that many users think they have privacy as a deliberate USP, but I personally think the latter, accidental rise of this quality, is their true position.

What is really the problem, and why IMHO Apple is not a humane tech company - is that they are a monopoly (or better, an oligopoly, with the other big tech players) and just like Google, Facebook et al, they tend to abuse that position. (Apple also has unethical production lines, think Foxconn etc. but that is beside the point here).

It will probably be hard to get the real reason from Apple for the removal (I’m sure your tried all your channels), but you could consider starting some HN discussions on your own. If you do that the right way, they can have big impact, even on the tech giants, as the recent Google Chrome discussions showed (see my post: Recent changes to Google Chrome cause huge uproar in tech community! )


Apple and Privacy
#3

Wow! Intense that you’re going through this right now.

I’ll really read this stuff and share with my communities. My first take (just based on the headlines) is that this is a really unethical but not illegal thing for Apple to do. More broadly, I need to brush up on my understanding of antitrust law, since that is really what this is ultimately about.

Thanks for sharing.

-Bill
ceo, co-founder reallyread.it


#4

Holy cow John, this sucks big time. I’ve used Freedom a couple of months, when in a phase where I was behind my computer quite a lot and I promote your app to others. I wasn’t aware of the fact that all of this was going on and I’m so sorry to hear this. I really hope you can find a workaround or an alternative and wish you all the best.

Virtual Vibes,
Yfke


#5

This is absolutely unheard of. Though we were moving into a space of increased consciousness that welcomed solutions, but this seems to be taking us a couple of steps back again. Work to be done!


#6

I am a long term user of Freedom, fantastic app and always recommending it to friends and colleagues. That is some seriously shady shit from Apple but I am not surprised.

Keep up the good work John.


#7

Extremely shocking. I think it’s fundamentally a right of anyone who owns a device to control the flow of information to it. This highlights the danger of operating systems where users can’t actually decide very much about the way that they work. Thank you for your awesome software @JohnBachir.


#8

Thanks everyone for your kind words. We’re now back in the app store with a new Safari Content Blocker-only app. Those of you who installed the old app can still install it indefinitely.

We’re in touch with a few other app makers who are facing a similar situation. Hopefully things will move in a positive direction eventually.


#9

Great to hear you are back in the AppStore @JohnBachir!

Could you elaborate a bit on the Why’s of the previous expulsion, and the reasons you are now included again, but with a new (or renamed) app?


#10

The reasons stated by Apple was that our previous app was inappropriately using the VPN API to block content in third-party apps (which is true).

Looking at the overall pattern, Apple let our and many other apps be in the app store for several years. Then, all at once, Apple removed them for a variety of reasons (inappropriate use of various APIs, such as GPS). So, there seems to be a clear correlation with the release of Screen Time in iOS 12. But who knows, maybe they just became more strict about App Store policies and it’s a coincidence that it happened at the same time as iOS 12.

Our new app does not use the VPN API, so it cannot block content in apps. It can only block content in Safari, and sometimes in other “embedded browsers” in apps which use a particular Webkit api (I can’t remember the name).