Brazilian Judge Orders Apple and Google To Remove ‘Secret’ App
A Brazilian judge on Tuesday ordered Apple and Google to remove a popular app Secret from their respective local app stores, arguing it is being misused by cyberbullies to intimidate others.
In a preliminary injunction, Judge Paulo Cesar de Carvalho of the Fifth Civil Court of Victoria is asking for Secret to be removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play within 10 days, as reported by 9to5Mac, citing a Brazilian publication. The order also determines Microsoft to yank a Secret client called ‘Cryptic’ from the Windows Phone store.
Apart from removal of application, Judge also wants companies to remotely wipe the software from existing users’ devices throughout the country. It is unclear at this time whether the ruling applies only to iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices sold within Brazil, or it would also include portables purchased outside of the country, and those used by foreigners.
The report stated that all three companies have a 10-day probationary period starting with Wednesday after which they could face a fine of 20,000 Brazilian Real (about US$8,860) for each day the apps remain available for download.
Secret came under fire in the past for promoting anonymous messaging. The app is apparently meant for office gossip and providing people a platform to anonymously share their thoughts and feelings that would otherwise be impossible. The company, however, refrains its users from bullying and harassment and reserves the right to remove any content it deems inappropriate.
The order for the removal stems from a case in which the marketing consultant Bruno Machado found nude photos published to Secret with comments about the subject being HIV positive. The public prosecutor Marcelo Zenkner then brought civil action asking for a ban on the application. He argued that the Brazilian constitution prohibits anonymous freedom of expression so the app “has to be uprooted.”
“Applying this line of thinking to apps like Secret, the takedown is meant to protect against the threat of bullying, or more specifically anonymous cyber-bullying,” wrote AppleInsider‘s Mikey Campbell.
As far as the request is concerned, all three companies have previously pulled apps from their app stores, and they have the technology to remotely disable software installed on gadgets. However, that last measure is primarily taken in extreme conditions, for example in the case of a malware outbreak when the companies have no other choice except the removal of the software.
It is yet to be seen how Apple, Google and Microsoft act in response to this Brazilian court order. Do you think the three companies should comply with the judge’s order, or that the ban would hurt the freedom of expression? Share your thoughts in the comments below.