Big Brother App Removed from App Store for “Harvesting User Passwords”

Yesterday Keith had written an article on common passcodes used by iPhone users to lock their iPhone. These stats were released by an iOS developer Daniel Amitay, who developed the app Big Brother which anonymously collected passcode from users of its app.

With less than 24hours after sharing the stats, the Big Brother app was removed from the App Store. Amitay reached out to Apple to address the issue and later in the night, Apple called up Amitay and stated that the main reason why the app was removed because Apple believed that he was surreptitiously harvesting user passwords.

iPhone Passcode

Amitay states on his blog

I think I should clarify exactly what data I was referring to, and how I was obtaining it. First, these passcodes are those that are input into Big Brother, not the actual iPhone lockscreen passcodes. Second, when the app sends this data to my server, it is literally sending only that number (e.g. 1234) and nothing else. I have no way of identifying any user or device whatsoever.

Amitay also cites section B of the iTunes EULA which states:

b. Consent to Use of Data: You agree that Application Provider may collect and use technical data and related information, including but not limited to technical information about Your device, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to You (if any) related to the Licensed Application. Application Provider may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify You, to improve its products or to provide services or technologies to you.

According to Amitay, the passcodes were collected from the Big Brother app and not from the actual iPhone lockscreen. The app does not reveal any specific password data, as its all anonymous.

Amitay noted that the caller from Apple knew nothing about his articles posted on his blog and believed that his articles was heard by word of mouth and Apple thought he was stealing passwords.

Here’s a tutorial on how you can create strong, secure and safe passcodes for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

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Joel Fernandes

Joel Fernandes (G+) is a tech enthusiast and a social media blogger. During his leisure time, he enjoys taking photographs, and photography is one of his most loved hobbies. You can find some of his photos on Flickr. He does a little of web coding, and maintains a tech blog of his own - Techo Latte. Joel is currently pursuing his Masters in Computer Application from Bangalore, India. You can get in touch with him on Twitter - @joelfernandes, or visit his Facebook Profile for more information.