Apple recently rejected an iOS app that purports to detect net neutrality violations, according to a new report from Motherboard. The app in question, which is called Wehe and was created by Northeastern University researcher David Coffnes, is designed to measure download speeds from a group of seven popular mobile-based services, including YouTube, Amazon, NBCSports, Netflix, Skype, Spotify, and Vimeo. In turn, users of the app are subsequently asked to take part in a research study whereby the data tabulated via the initial download speed test is examined for any overt evidence of throttling from carriers.
Regarding Apple’s decision to ban the app, the company told Coffnes that Wehe is an app that, quite simply, lacks any semblance of utility for the end user. Apple explained that Coffnes’ app “may mislead users by providing inaccurate determinations … specifically, your app is marketed to users as a way to check if their carrier is violating net neutrality. However, your app has no direct benefits to the user from participating in the study.”
Incidentally, Apple on its developer page lists “misleading users” and apps with “not enough lasting value” as two reasons why apps are commonly rejected from the App Store.
His system is not a perfect way of determining actual network speeds, because he doesn’t have access to telecom infrastructure or video provider servers. But he says that the basic methods of data discrimination have not been disputed by telecom companies and that his work has caught the eye of ARCEP, France’s version of the FCC, which has cited his work and wants to use his methods to catch telecom companies violating net neutrality in the country.
Interestingly, Choffnes is confident his app would have passed muster had he categorized it as nothing more than a speed test app. Still, he had no intention of lying about the app’s true purpose just “to get it published.”