The Amazon shopping app in the Google Play Store on an Android smartphone.
Christoph Dernbach | photo alliance | Getty Images
Apple has removed Fakespot, a well-known app for detecting fake product reviews, from the App Store after Amazon complained that the app provided misleading information and potential security risks.
Fakespot’s app analyzes the credibility of an Amazon listing’s reviews and rates them from A to F. It then gives shoppers recommendations for products with high customer satisfaction.
Amazon said it reported Fakespot to Apple for investigation after it was concerned that a redesigned version of the app confused consumers by displaying Amazon’s website in the app with Fakespot code and content on it. Amazon said that applications don’t allow this. An Amazon spokesperson claimed, “The app in question provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms our sellers’ businesses and creates potential security risks.”
On Friday afternoon, the app was no longer available in the App Store after a review by Apple.
Misleading or fake user reviews have proven to be a major problem for online retailers, including Amazon. The company has recently stepped up its efforts to spot and remove fake reviews. The third-party marketplace, made up of millions of sellers, has grown to more than half of the company’s total revenue, but it has become a fertile ground for fake reviews, counterfeits, and unsafe products. Regulators in the US and abroad have taken steps to curb fake reviews on and off Amazon.
As fake reviews continue to spread around the internet, third-party apps and websites have sprung up to help shoppers spot them, such as Fakespot, ReviewMeta, and ReconBob.
Amazon has reported the well-known fake review detector app Fakespot to Apple for investigation, leading to its removal from the App Store.
Apple said in a statement that Amazon had started a dispute with the Fakespot app over intellectual property rights on June 8. Apple said it has provided Fakespot with steps to keep their app in store and given them “extensive time” to fix the problem. It then contacted Fakespot on June 29, weeks before their app was removed from the App Store.
An Apple spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about App Store guidelines being violated by Fakespot.
But Amazon pointed out to The Washington City Times two subsections of Apple’s App Store guidelines that Fakespot may have violated. One guideline states that apps must allow them to use, access, monetize, or display content from a third-party service. Another guideline states that apps should not contain false information and features.
Amazon also claims that Fakespot’s encryption technique allows the app to collect and track customer information. The company made similar claims last January against PayPal-owned Honey, a browser extension that allows users to find coupons while shopping online, warning users that it could be a “security risk”.
Fakespot: ‘They showed zero evidence’
In an interview, Fakespot founder and CEO Saoud Khalifah said he disputed Amazon’s claim that the app poses security risks and said that while Fakespot does collect some user data, it does not sell it to third parties.
Khalifah added that many apps use the same encryption technique called “wrapping” to include a web browser view, like coupon providers. He said many apps and websites also collect and track user information, including Amazon.
“We don’t steal user information, we never have,” Khalifah said. “They showed zero evidence and Apple acted on this with no evidence.”
Fakespot released a new version of its app at the end of May. Amazon reported the app to Apple in mid-June, Khalifah said.
Khalifah said he was upset that Apple had not sufficiently warned Fakespot that the app would be pulled from the App Store, or the ability to fix issues with the app.
“Imagine you go to a tenant and tell you to take all your stuff, you have to leave right now. That’s how I feel right now, to be very honest with you,” he added.
The Fakespot app will be available from Friday evening in the Google Play Store for Android devices.