Apple rejected a free iPhone application that advocated a single-payer health system, calling the application “politically charged,” according to the app’s developer.
Red Daly, a 22 year-old computer science grad student at Stanford, submitted his iSinglePayer iPhone app for Apple’s approval on Aug. 21. A little more than a month later Apple rejected it on the grounds of its content, Daly told Wired.com.
The iSinglePayer application includes facts and figures that support a Canadian-style health insurance plan where the government insures citizens and reimburses health providers, but doesn’t employ the doctors. The app also uses GPS to determine a user’s political representatives, and how much money health companies have given them in campaign donations. It also gives users a single button to call lawmakers.
Daly said he made the application as a way to express his opinion and to help others express theirs.
“I went to the app store because I felt like I didn’t have much of a voice in other spheres,” Daly said. “When the mainstream media talks about single payer, they emphasize the negatives and this was my foray into the debate. It seemed like this would be the most effective way to reach people, since it is a phone and people can call right from it.”
Daly said he anticipated the rejection after Apple called a few weeks ago to ask if he was working on his own, or on behalf of a group or politician. He said he was just working as his own small company, which he suspects led to his rejection.
Apple’s preference for the establishment annoys Daly.
“I feel like politicians already have a megaphone and Apple is making it worse instead of making it easier for a regular guy to get an application into the store,” Daly said.
Apple did not reply to a request for comment.
Daly, who has successfully submitted other apps such as Quiz Tunes, suspected something was off when he did not get an answer from Apple quickly.
Then on Saturday morning, Daly got a call from an Apple employee who identified himself as Richard, who told him verbally that his app had been rejected. When Daly asked if there was anything he could do to make it less politically charged, Richard replied that the problem was the app was politically charged.
Apple has already drawn scrutiny from federal regulators over its management of the iPhone app store, which is the only path users can take to add applications to their phone without voiding the warranty. Users have downloaded more than two billion applications.
In August, Apple resorted to hair-splitting in its response to the FCC’s inquiry about why it rejected a Google Voice iPhone app. Apple said it was worried the service would confuse its users, but said it was still studying the issue — something contradicted by Google’s response to the feds.
Apple has been criticized for blocking video and internet telephony applications that compete with the telecoms it partners with. But it’s also taken heat for approving applications like the infamous Baby Shaker app, which it subsequently took down after a public outcry.
Daly says he knows that Apple doesn’t have the same First Amendment obligation that the government has, but he thinks there’s a better way.
“I don’t think there is any sort of corruption — like Apple doesn’t want single payer,” Daly said. “I think its more like they don’t want to get involved in the health care debate.
“Apple should look out the for user and make sure an app functions well and doesn’t have a viruses. But I don’t think they should be in the business of censoring political speech and I don’t think they should be regulating content.”