Sex Offender iPhone Applications Address Legal Constraints

Last week, TechCrunch noted that the popular Offender Locator iPhone application [App Store, $0.99], a map-based application that pulls data from public records regarding the residences of convicted sex offenders, had disappeared from the App Store. While neither the developers nor Apple provided comment about the application's removal, speculation centered on a California law forbidding the sale of personal information for profit.

We haven't been able to get in touch directly with the developers of the app yet, but we're told that they're looking into the possibility of filing a suit (presumably against Apple) for the removal. So clearly they feel this removal is unjust. But at [sic] we wrote when we covered the app a couple weeks ago, this may have to do with the fact that they were charging for this app. As a couple commenters noted in our last story, "This app is not legal, at least under CA law. Selling the personal information of people (even ex-criminals) for profit is forbidden."

The theory was supported by the continued offering of a limited free version of the application, Offender Locator Lite [App Store, Free], although other users noted that a competing paid application, Sex Offenders Search [App Store, $1.99], continued to appear in the App Store.

The story became clearer over the weekend, as Sex Offenders Search saw its App Store description revised to include a statement regarding removal of data on sex offenders registered in California.

***NOTE*** SOS is currently not displaying data regarding California registered sex offenders until we are certain that doing so is allowed by law.

Users who have already purchased a copy of SOS on or prior to Aug 7, 2009 should still be able to view the complete set of data.

In addition, Offender Locator has reappeared in the App Store with a similar statement appended to its description.

* Note: California sex offender data is unavailable at this time in the paid version of our application. You must use Offender Locator Lite version to access this data.