Earlier this week, iOS developer Daniel Amitay published a report examining trends in passcodes chosen by users of his Big Brother Camera Security application. Amitay had anonymously collected over 200,000 passcodes used on his app and offered the data up as a proxy for actual iPhone passcode usage data based on the similarity of the input system style and functionality.
Amitay now reports that his application has been pulled from the App Store by Apple, although he is unsure at this time whether the removal was due to publication of the data or his admission of collecting it in the first place.
As of today at 4:58pm EST, Big Brother has been removed from the App Store. I'm certainly not happy about it, but considering the concerns a few people have expressed regarding the transfer of data from app to my server, it is understandable.
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 points to Apple's iTunes licensing agreement in support of his belief that he can collect such information, noting that he had planned on using the data collected to generate a list of common passcodes that would offer a warning of the codes being too obvious if they were chosen by a user. Consequently, it is unclear whether it is the collection itself or the publication of it that raised Apple's ire.
Amitay is currently reaching out to Apple to address the issue and have Big Brother Camera Security returned to the App Store.
Update: Amitay has updated his post to note that he has received a response from Apple relaying that his application was pulled for "surreptitiously harvesting user passwords". He has submitted an updated version of the application omitting the passcode collection capabilities and has appealed Apple's decision on the basis of the data being specific to the app, anonymized, and used for the purposes of improving the application.