Apple is now rejecting all apps related to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak that aren’t from officially recognized health institutions such as governments or hospitals.
CNBC learned about the move from several iPhone app makers:
Four independent developers told CNBC that Apple rejected their apps, which would allow people to see stats about which countries have confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some of these apps used public data from reliable sources like the World Health Organization to create dashboards or live maps.
Its own guidelines for app development notwithstanding, the App Store review process is complicated and like a black box — you never precisely know how it works. But in this particular case, Apple is being totally clear as to why coronavirus apps are being rejected.
One developer said an Apple employee explained over the phone that anything related to the coronavirus must be released by an official health organization or government. Another developer got a written response that ‘apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution.’
Just a few days ago, Apple updated its official App Store guidelines.
Lo and behold, the document now includes a new clause which advises developers of apps in “highly-regulated” fields such as healthcare, financial services or air travel to submit their work by a “legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer.”
Spent all day yesterday building a coronavirus app just to get this rejection ? pic.twitter.com/HSJxp0JERS
— Zachary Shakked (@zacharyshakked) March 4, 2020
Apple must be doing something right here because searching for “coronavirus” or “COVID-19″ on the App Store or Mac App Store currently reveals mostly benign results and no related spam.
Morgan Reed, president of industry group the App Association told CNBC:
Right now the technology industry is working very hard to ensure the platforms are not being used to provide people with false or, even worse, dangerous information about the coronavirus. We are seeing significant pressure inside and outside to halt applications and advertisements before they harm citizens.
Apple’s rivals have introduced similar measures of their own.
Amazon is removing any product listings promising to kill the coronavirus and Facebook is now removing stories related to conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, Google has decided to ban ads for anti-coronavirus products and is now providing timely information from the World Health Organization at the top of coronavirus-related search pages.
Earlier this morning, we reported that the coronavirus situation has forced a sudden cancellation of all “Today At Apple” sessions held across Apple’s retail stores in Italy.
These nationwide cancellations will stretch until at least March 19.