Apple, Google reject coronavirus apps not developed by official sources

Both companies appear to be trying to stem the flow of misinformation by locking down their app stores.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Apple and Google are rejecting coronavirus-related mobile apps from independent developers in an attempt to prevent the spread of misinformation. 

While there are developers out there who have been creating applications with good intentions -- such as software that shows recent statistics about confirmed cases or impacted countries by pulling data from official sources -- a blanket ban appears to have been implemented by Apple. 

As reported by CNBC, a number of developers have had their apps rejected; not because their software was in any way fraudulent or promoting fake numbers or dubious cures, but because the iPad and iPhone maker has decided that "apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution."

See also: Hon Hai, Foxconn see February sales fall 18% due to novel coronavirus

This would include establishments such as the World Health Organization (WHO), governments, hospitals, and healthcare regulators, but disbars standard iOS developers. 

A source familiar with the matter told the publication that Apple is specifically focused on where information comes from and "whether the developers represent organizations that users can trust to publish accurate data."

Some, however, argue that the ban is too restrictive and a tiered system for trusted developers with long, positive feedback records could be more suitable. 

Google, too, has taken proactive steps to stop a potential torrent of apps that would contribute to what the WHO has called an "infodemic" -- the spread of misinformation in relation to the coronavirus. 

If you search for "coronavirus" in Google Play, no apps are shown. 

The tech giant's rules stipulate that apps that attempt to "capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event" are unacceptable. 

CNET: Best Apple MacBook deals for 2020: The MacBook Pro costs less than the MacBook Air?

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that has spread across 33 countries including China, the US, UK, and Australia. According to the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, there are 95,265 reported cases of COVID-19 globally and 3281 deaths, at the time of writing.

The WHO is concerned that "some countries have either not taken this seriously enough, or have decided there's nothing they can do" and has urged political leaders to do more to contain the outbreak, arguing that "this is not a time for excuses." 

TechRepublic: How to adjust iOS 13 settings for better battery life

In the meantime, Amazon is fighting a battle with merchants to prevent price-gouging as concerned individuals clear stores out of hand sanitizer and face masks, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week that the social network is working with the WHO to "make sure everyone can access credible and accurate information."

Coronavirus: How to clean and disinfect your tech gadgets

Previous and related coverage

Have a tip? Get in touch securely via WhatsApp | Signal at +447713 025 499, or over at Keybase: charlie0

Editorial standards