Stolen!, the app that let you buy and sell Twitter users in a fictional exchange, has been taken off the App Store by its developers due to privacy concerns.
“The app is no longer available in the App Store,” the Stolen! team tweeted Thursday afternoon. “We’ve heard everyone’s concerns and have decided the best thing to do is to shut down.”
This comes in the wake of an earlier article in The Guardian in which journalist Leigh Alexander called Stolen! “a privacy minefield.”
Even congress got into the act, with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) sending a letter to both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Apple CEO Tim Cook recommending Stolen! be shut down.
The app used Twitter data to let Stolen! users “own” people’s profiles, kind of like we all did when we bought, sold and traded baseball cards as kids. Unfortunately, the app let this happen without any consent from the people being “bought” or “sold” in the game. The “owners” could write whatever they want on your “trading card.” Kind of disgusting on the face of it, really.
While a late addition allowed Twitter users to opt out of being pulled into the Stolen! app, it required a DM to the Stolen! account and proof that you were who you claimed to be, which really set people off. As of the last hour or so, Stolen! was offering refunds for any in-app purchases via the iTunes process already in place.
Above and beyond basic privacy issues, this sort of activity can be terrifying for those in the public eye, like female journalists who already have enough trolling to contend with. As Alexander points out in the Guardian piece, Gadgette’s Holly Brockwell and TheNextWeb’s Lauren Hockenson were both freaked out when they found out they’d been “owned.”
A simple opt-in feature could have kept this problem under the radar, but when you allow anyone to “own” people without their consent, you get into an entirely new territory, as the Stolen! folks found out today.
Here’s hoping they fix the problem and figure out a way to make it right. For now, the app is no longer available on the App Store, and the Stolen! app’s website is down as well.