Apple Inc has joined a growing number of US companies that have severed ties with WikiLeaks, removing an application from its online store that gave users access to the controversial Web site’s content.
However, Google Inc, which operates the second-largest online mobile applications store, has kept more than half a dozen apps available on its Android Marketplace that make it easier to access the confidential US government documents WikiLeaks had released on its site.
The two distinct approaches highlight how it is far tougher for developers to get on the iPhone’s platform than Android’s. Some of the Android programs provide direct access to the WikiLeaks cables, and one of them even alerts users whenever a new leaked document from the WikiLeaks repository is made public.
In past weeks, a host of companies from Amazon.com Inc to Bank of America has withdrawn services for WikiLeaks, which has outraged US authorities by releasing thousands of confidential State Department cables.
But in a backlash against organizations that have cut off the site, cyberactivists have taken to targeting companies — such as Visa Inc — seen as foes of WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange was released on bail last week from a jail in Britain, where he is fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual offenses.
“Is it likely that Apple could become a target? Of course,” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the US Cyber Consequences Unit, and an expert in such attacks. “Anyone that distances themselves from WikiLeaks could potentially become a cyber target.”
The WikiLeaks App, created by developer Igor Barinov and offered for US$1.99, was only available in Apple’s App Store for a few days before it was removed.
“We removed the WikiLeaks App from the App Store because it violated our developer guidelines,” Apple said on Wednesday. “Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or targeted group in harm’s way.”