Apple is under pressure from Developers to eradicate widespread App Evaluation Scams

Apple is under pressure from Developers to eradicate widespread App Evaluation Scams

Apple is facing a demand to tighten its crackdown on fake reviews and rating fraud. The story is that a developer has been forced to confront fraudulent business practices as a result of App Store fraud not being eradicated by tech giant Apple. It has been revealed in.

Kosta Eleftheriou, one of the founders of Fleksy, the developer of the Fleksy keyboard app (acquired by Pinterest in 2016), has gained expertise in autocorrect algorithms since March 2018. Not only has it enabled typing on the small display of the Apple Watch, but it has also made it possible to type as “simple, fun, and very effective,” as Forbes reviewers call it.

The FlickType developed by Eleph Seriu is “surprisingly accurate” and “a keyboard with excellent basic functions” from the app reviewer, rather than the character-by-character freehand method natively supported by Apple. Is also described as “quite fast”.

There are many very positive 5-star ratings in user reviews, but the overall rating for users is now 3.5, as many low scores have lowered the average. But over time, we find that flick-type developers are consistently and positively responding to issues raised by users with low scores.

Occasionally, there are complaints about Apple Watch platform issues that Elef Seriu has no control over (because Apple limits access to text input by third-party apps). Lack of functionality is also a common problem, and in many of the answers, Eleph Seriu said that he added the settings that users were looking for (such as the ability to disable auto-correction) and said, “Typing becomes easier. We are dealing with the problem by introducing “new look and feel”. We may also thank the user for pointing out the bug and report the completion of the fix.

Anyone who knows how each complaint is specifically addressed will be confident that flick-type developers are working hard to meet customer expectations. Overall, the other Apple Watch keyboard apps are even higher overall.

The problem for Eleph Seriu is that the imitation app maker is exploiting his hard work. Counterfeit app makers can take advantage of the weak crackdown on the App Store and use him as a springboard to unjust enrich.

Here’s how to scam. A number of Apple Watch keyboard apps that claim to have the same sophisticated features as the flick type have been released, encouraging users to pay a stunningly high subscription fee. However, its function is nothing more than an inferior counterfeit product.

You might expect quality to be at the top of the App Store for counterfeit apps. Behind the scenes, however, counterfeit apps are scored with fake reviews and ratings, keeping out genuine ratings from many users.

There are more fake reviews than real reviews. If you don’t take the time to read the comments carefully, you won’t be able to tell the fake.

“I should have read the review before I bought it. It doesn’t work on my Apple Watch,” commented a one-star review of WatchKey, one of the rival apps that Eleph Seriu is protesting. Is. Nonetheless, the app has a very high percentage of 5-star reviews, which gives it a higher overall rating than his app.

Watchkeys usually respond to 1-star reviews by “sorry for the inconvenience. Please email us in detail so we can support you as soon as possible.”

In another one-star review comment, following the word “worst,” it says: “I bought this app to use the T9 on my Apple Watch, but the T9 didn’t work. I also sent an email to the customer service listed in the app but didn’t get a reply. I bought another app. I encourage you to look for it. ”

Looking at the answer to another lowest rating for Watchkey’s software, there’s another cliché. “Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately, we haven’t received your email yet. Please let us know more about the situation at support@vulcanlabs.co so we can help you as soon as possible.”

This pattern is repeated in negative reviews. Even those who wrote 5 star reviews warned that “T9 is not free. I thought that writing a review would make T9 free, but I was charged.” There is.

The review process involves posting common clichés to keep out genuine negative reviews so that they meet Apple’s minimum requirements. You also need to post a ton of fake 5-star reviews to keep your app’s overall rating high. This kind of work is profitable.

Eleph Seriu has posted some of the “hundreds” of fake five-star reviews in a Twitter thread. These are said to be used to force Apple Watch users to download malicious counterfeit apps. Fake reviews use phrases that focus on non-existent features or refer to features of other types of devices (this is a fake review copied from a real review in another medium & Indicates that it may have been pasted).

If you search for “buy ios reviews” on Google, you’ll see a huge amount of 634 million search results. This includes ads for companies marketing “The best way to rank your app on Apple’s App Store or Google Play is to undertake app reviews, installs, and ratings.” % Some high-quality iOS app reviews with real user ratings are on sale for $ 2.5.

It’s clear that selling fake reviews is a fast-growing business. This indicates that there is no effective crackdown.

Ultimately, Eleph Seriu is one of the fraudster-spoofing competitors who stole a promotional video (flick-type feature demo) of his app and used it on Facebook and Instagram. I discovered that I was using it for advertising targeting.

Facebook has a policy against third-party piracy (based on Section 4 “Prohibited Content” of the Advertising Policy), but it’s better to ask the company, a major advertising technology company, to crack down on it. Would be good. Facebook only responds to allegations of copyright infringement, so Eleph Seriu must spend a lot of time finding and reporting malicious ads that steal marketing materials to prevent unauthorized use. (“Facebook has finally removed the ad I reported, but it’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean I’m always relieved,” he said.)

It may seem surprising to read this far, but it goes without saying that Apple’s developer rules clearly state that submitting a fraudulent review is a breach of the developer program’s license agreement.

The App Store review guidelines allow developers who attempt to deceive the system (such as rating manipulation) not only to remove the app from the App Store, but also to be completely removed from Apple’s developer program. Warns.

To put it bluntly, Apple’s own crackdown cannot eradicate App Store scams, requiring highly skilled and proven individual developers to use a great deal of resources to combat scams. Is also an undesirable situation for Apple. Eleph Seriu feels that public calling on social media is the only countermeasure to highlight the failure of the systematic crackdown.

Elef Seriu told TechCrunch that he asked for action on Apple’s official “App Claims” channel, but filed complaints on social media because it only gave “depressing results.” It means that I decided.

“Apple’s response is to connect the developers who are complaining and the developers who are being complained, and have them solve the problem directly while monitoring the interaction,” Elefseliu said. explain. “The scammers I complained about on the app allegations channel aren’t far from the big scammers I mentioned in the Twitter thread. Still, my complaints are barely resolved and fake ratings and reviews Apple didn’t answer anything about the issue. For Apple, if the complainant didn’t contact us immediately, the issue was resolved. After that, we contacted Apple informally but responded. There wasn’t. ”

“What impressed me most was that the scammers didn’t feel any threat to Apple’s legal team surveillance. It was as if Apple wouldn’t take any action. It was as if they were, “he adds. “In my opinion, Apple hasn’t put enough resources into this area.”

Since raising the issue on Twitter, Eleph Seriu has reported some wins in the fight against counterfeit apps. Some of the apps he complained about have been removed from the App Store (at the time of this writing, Apple hasn’t officially announced any action).

However, it seems that the accounts of the developers of imitation apps are not banned at this time. “I’m amazed that the developer account isn’t revoked after all these scams,” Erefseliu said. “There is no more effective measure than banning accounts.”

When we contacted Apple about this issue, the company tried to deceive the system (manipulating the review process, stealing user data, copying other developers’ apps, rating and apps, among other applicable provisions. He provided background information on the developer policy that prohibits (such as manipulating the contents of the Store).

We also asked Apple if they were considering changing the policy in light of the issues raised by Elef Seriu. I will update this article if there is any answer.

“In my opinion, imitating an app isn’t the main problem. It doesn’t matter if the developer of the imitation app uses my name or makes a screenshot similar to mine. It wasn’t like that. It wouldn’t have been possible if there was a system that properly prevented false ratings and reviews, “said Elefseliu. “When a lot of 1-star reviews are collected, low-quality products are eliminated, which protects users. However, if the product review system is tampered with, other good products are also eliminated. It will be excluded. ”

“There is no longer any guarantee that ratings and reviews are reliable, which has resulted in a sharp loss of consumer confidence,” he adds. “I did a Google search for what the’company’that sells ratings and reviews was. The search results showed a full-fledged company with a support system and a competitor. It claims that Apple won’t remove the rating like this. For me, the prosperity of these industries was a shock. ”

The fake review issue is certainly not unique to Apple’s App Store. And it’s a very insidious problem.

Given the number of platforms that have a user review system built in, whether you’re shopping on Amazon or looking for a destination on TripAdvisor, look at Google Maps reviews and see your local dentist. Even if you’re looking for, fake reviews are almost everywhere on the Internet (in short, you shouldn’t trust reviews).

But the problem seems to be particularly damaging to Apple.

At the heart of the App Store’s selling point is the claim that Apple’s review process is of higher quality and more reliable than other poorly monitored marketplaces.

Therefore, if you don’t take more steps to combat review fraud and rating manipulation, you run the risk of losing your Apple brand.

Simply put, consumers expect high standards from Apple. That’s why I’m willing to pay a high price for the product. The lack of resources for App Store checks and crackdowns is uneconomical. If this situation continues, there is an even greater risk that quality developers like Eleph Seriu will move away from the App Store.

If a developer with such a background couldn’t reliably sell his product on the App Store, what exactly is Apple’s “premium” marketplace?

This issue is likely to be investigated by consumer watchdogs and regulators in the coming years. The European Union (EU), for example, plans to incorporate binding transparency and reporting requirements into its upcoming platform regulations in an effort to promote fairness and accountability in digital business.

The EU Omnibus Directive, which came into force in early 2020, sets a two-year deadline for Member States to introduce it, with the aim of strengthening consumer rights through tightened crackdowns and transparency requirements. There is. Another effort is to address the issue of fake reviews directly by requiring traders to take “reasonable and reasonable” steps to ensure that reviews are authentic.

EU platforms will be required to “justify” the failure to crack down on fake reviews. Failure to justify will result in severe “GDPR level” fines for consumer protection law violations. Therefore, the loss will not be as bad as it is now.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Competitive Markets Agency has cracked down on buying and selling fake reviews specifically targeting Facebook, Instagram and eBay in recent years. British observers, which are currently operating independently of the EU, also appear to be paying more attention to the issue.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.