With no apparent legal leg to stand on, Senator Bob Casey pressures Apple to remove app

Summary:If we allow our politicians to treat online activities as unworthy of fundamental American rights, we will be allowing them to erode our fundamental American rights.

ACT I - A tale of two telephones

Ring. One-ringy-dingy. Two-ringy-dingy.

APPLE: "Hello, Apple, how may we sell you?"

SENATOR: "Hello comrades. Zees is Comrade Senator Bob Casey of ze Politburo of ze United States. Ve disapprove of, what you call it? App? Yes, app. Ve disapprove of app you allow on your app store."

APPLE: "Well, to be fair, sir, many people disagree with us. Have you read ever read ZDNet? Those people, sheesh."

SENATOR: "No, ve are not talking of ze Zee-Dee-Net. Ve are talking an app ve want you to disappear."

APPLE: "I'm sorry, sir, we don't just take things off our store."

SENATOR: "Yes you do. Ve read about it all the time. Zose Zee-Dee-Net peoples are alvays complaining."

APPLE: "Oh, that's right, we do. Who's hard work would you like us to delete? Who's income stream would you like us to destroy?"

SENATOR: "Zat's much better. Vee wish you to delete ze app from zees driver training company."

APPLE: "Consider it done, sir. They never existed."

ACT II - Back at the Comrade Senator's office

Dancing. High-fiving. Celebrating.

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #1: "Vee did it. Vee did it. Vee did it! Vee disappeared zoss bastards."

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #2: "And it vas so easy. Ve didn't even have to go to court, file charges, or even contact the company."

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #1: "Of course not. Zees is the age of the Internet. All that due process ztuff no long longer applies. Vee just demand, and eet happens."

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #2: "Ain't America grand? Let's issue a press release. Zees is sure to net us big dollars from our contributors."

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #1: "Yeah, zat iz true. And ZNN might even put our man on air and congratulate him for being all about law and order."

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #2: "Vee are all about ze law and order. Our orders, who cares about the law?"

Laughing. Back-slapping. Chortling.

COMRADE SENATOR'S AIDE #1: "Yah. Vee are ze law."

ACT III - The real story

Here we go again. Another government official has decided to attack a small business without due process, appeal, or even warning.

See also: Ridiculous: judge orders sites de-indexed from Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In this case, Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. decided he wanted to have an app removed from Apple's App store. Now, to be clear, the app was somewhat ill-advised. It was a joke app that let users make images of drivers' licenses from all 50-states, put in fun names, and fun pictures, and share those images online.

Falsifying drivers' licenses for fun? Not the smartest move, ever.

The app was produced by DriversEd.com, which provides government-supported drivers' education training throughout the United States. In other words, they're probably one of the good guys. It was probably meant in good fun, although ill-advised.

But Casey didn't like the app. The concern about fake IDs is obvious, but his way of going about solving the problem says volumes about how our politicians respect businesses that operate online.

News Flash: Most businesses will operate online sooner or later, so if we allow our politicians to treat online activities as unworthy of fundamental American rights, we will be allowing them to erode our fundamental American rights.

Rather than contacting the vendor, or even filing legal papers against DriversEd.com (which, technically, he probably couldn't because they may not have been actually violating the law), Casey called on a higher power. He wrote to Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, and asked Cook to have the application removed.

Cook did. The application is now gone.

Casey was then so proud of himself that he issued a press release, crowing "I urged Apple to take the responsible step of removing this dangerous app, and I'm pleased that the app is no longer available in the store."

Comrade Senator seemed quite pleased with himself. After all, it's much easier to use your clout to make a phone call than it is to jump through the hoops to employ proper legal means that demonstrate the respect of the fundamental rights of American citizens that one would expect from a lawmaker.

Let me be clear: it's not that I support an app that lets you create images of drivers' licenses, because there are obvious problems. It's that I condemn the way Casey acted, going outside the bounds of the laws he's sworn to uphold and defend, using his influence to attack a small business, and having the bad taste to brag about it.

I'm posting this because I'm starting to get a little worried about this trend I'm seeing of simple complaints resulting in loss of domain names and loss of app distribution, with no recourse or warning, no due process, and no checks and balances. This doesn't seem like how America should run.

Topics: Apple, Apps, CXO, IT Employment

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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