For a while there, becoming someone else was extraordinarily easier thanks to a new app available for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity to experience the illicit joys of fraud and underage alcohol-buying is now gone thanks to some (unsurprising) high profile criticism recently aimed at Apple that led to the subsequent removal of said app.
The app, concisely titled “Drivers License,” allowed users to insert their own photo into a driver’s license template from one of any of the fifty United States. The app developer, DriversEd.com, described the app as such: “Take a picture with friends, and go crazy! You can change all the personal info too, so the possibilities are endless. When you’re done, just email your licenses or send them to Facebook for easy sharing!”
Yes. Go crazy. I’m sure this app wouldn’t have caused any problems. At all.
Despite being marketed as a just-for-kicks app, the incredible ease with which users could fabricate fake IDs created some legitimate concern with among some serious folk. First, the president of the Coalition for a Secure Drivers License, D. Brian Zimmer, sent a letter to Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of iPhone Software, expressing his objection to the app’s existence and requesting that it be removed from the App Store. In the letter, Zimmer details all of the potential ways that one could use the fabricated licences created by the app, such as underage purchasing of tobacco products and alcohol, faking employment eligibility, concealing one’s conviction as a sex offender, and even abetting terrorist activity.
Apple appears to have responded with a resounding no-response because Zimmer’s letter was sent to Forstall all the way back in April but the app was still in the App Store as of this past weekend. Incredibly, that means the app was available for an entire eight months after the original removal request (I know what you’re thinking because I, too, am bewildered that this app was available for so long and now lament the missed possibilities to “go crazy” with new IDs that would have been used purely for entertainment purposes). More perplexing is that this app has actually been available for over two years. How was this overlooked? Unreal. However, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) took up the cause and wrote a letter to Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook. Again citing concerns of national security, Casey implored Cook to remove the app :
While DriversEd.com markets the app as a fun game, it can also be used in a way that allows criminals to create a new identity, steal someone else’s identity, or permit underage youth to purchase alcohol or tobacco illegally. National security systems depend on the trustworthiness of driver’s licenses, yet with a counterfeit license created by this app, a terrorist could bypass identity verification by the Transportation Security Administration, or even apply for a passport.
While identity fraud is not a new problem, the use of readily available technology to facilitate this crime is of particular concern. By assisting in the creation of counterfeit driver’s licenses, “License” threatens to ease deception by criminals and contribute to the rising problem of identity theft. Given these risks, I request that you remove this application from the App Store immediately, as well as any other available applications that allow users to create, steal or alter false identities. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Casey evidently has more clout with Apple than Zimmer because, as of today, the Drivers License app is nowhere to be found in Apple’s App Store. However, Zimmer graciously applauds Casey’s success in having the app removed:
I applaud Senator Casey’s efforts. Apple has a responsibility to its users to ensure that its technology does not facilitate crime. Counterfeit driver’s licenses are not novelties. They present a very real risk to public safety and national security. Apple should have had measures in place to prevent the ‘License’ application from ever making it to the App Store. Apple Corporation’s lack of action to pull this application when I first notified them in April, 2011, of its risk to public safety was dismaying. Apple should establish a careful policy of reviewing applications for the App Store that might lead to a child’s injury through inappropriate use. The License App presents a clear risk to public safety.
I can’t really blame Apple for the quick response to Casey’s request, but at the same time, if you’re D. Brian Zimmer, you’ve gotta be feeling a little slighted about Apple resolutely ignoring your request from eight months ago. So it goes. And I guess it’s back to the old tactics of exacto knives and gorilla glue for you ambitious under-18-year-olds trying to dupe the system into believing that you’re actually 25.