Apple Removing Wi-Fi Scanning Apps from App Store

Cult of Mac reports that Apple has begun removing apps from the iTunes App Store that scan for Wi-Fi access points. It looks like these apps are being removed due to their use of private APIs, which is prohibited by the iPhone SDK agreement. This would make it similar to the recent removal of apps that misused the iPhone camera DCIM folder to store and exchange documents.

There's been some suggestion, however, that list reflects a policy change from Apple closer to the recent removal of sex-based apps.

Our speculation is that Apple has either added the Wi-Fi private APIs to their static analysis tool, or has just finally gotten around to checking for them. That would make it appear like a new policy when it's actually the originally agreement finally being enforced.

Some developers believe long term lack of action by Apple equals tacit approval for private API use. Those beliefs likely have to start changing. When Apple makes an API public, they're guaranteeing that developers can use them and have faith Apple won't break them (and the apps built on them) in a future update. Private APIs are the opposite -- Apple can and will change them at any point, breaking apps that try to use them when they shouldn't. In some cases Apple is working on public versions of private APIs and will release them in future versions of the iPhone OS. In other cases they aren't -- sometimes for security, other times just for proprietary reasons.

In either case, this isn't the first and likely won't be last set of rejections.

If you're a developer who's dealing with this and have a better take on the situation, please let us know!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple Removing Wi-Fi Scanning Apps from App Store


I agree. These apps are alot more useful then the built in Wi-Fi detector that comes with evey iPhone.

I an glad I still have WiFiFoFum, As I use it fairly often for work, mapping wifi routers on corporate campuses. It has a logging feature that would email a .kml file which you could open in GoogleEarth to see the location of every router, its signal strength, etc.
I suspect this had nothing to do with Private APIs. I suspect it had a lot to do with the half million hits you get when googling iphone wardriving.
Now I have to watch my app upgrades just in case they strip functionality just to get back in the itunes store.

I want to like the iPhone and every time I think about buying another one more news like this comes out. No, I don't use these applications often but it appears that everything violates one or more of Apples terms and can be removed at any time. It is turning me off to other Apple products.

[sarcasm]I am sure Apple is just trying to improve our experience. At anytime these apps may stop working are become buggy due to a change in the OS. We are much better off not having the option to run these apps at all.[/sarcasm]
I rarely find any new apps in the AppStore that are truly useful these days. But it is becoming a regular occurrence for the useful ones to get removed. Apple is going backwards.

I’m impressed, I must say. Really lraery do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

well yeah 3g means you get internet were ever you get a sinagl wifi you have to be somewhere and be on someones wireless internet network. 3g is prolly better if your traveling but to be honest, the i pad is basically and over sized iphone that is pretty inconvenient to carry around. my suggestion is a mac book. its more expensive but you get a bunch of other stuff. + the ipad is kinda big to carry around but i guess if you do traveling and get 3g thatd be nice. But im just letting you now that the macbook would prolly be a better choice if you ave write stuff for your work

You do realize that joining a non public wifi network paid for by another individual not for your consumption is ILLEGAL, correct? These apps pretty much cater to finding hidden wifi networks that people aren't supposed to be able to join. I'm sick of techie nerds trying to beat up on Apple for not letting them violate laws. Play by the RULES.

Most jurisdictions consider only it a crime to access a protected WiFi network (e.g. WEP or WPA encryption), but the crime is in circumventing the security, not in the access itself, which remains legal. Some states (and countries) have taken the next step by criminalizing access of even an unprotected network -- Michigan, Illinois in the US come to mind, and the UK and Singapore internationally -- but a plurality, if not a majority, of states have not. (Actually, the UK may attack this from the opposite direction, making it illegal to run a wireless network WITHOUT security, but I digress.)
More to the point, that a device has illegal uses is not a sufficient cause for its banning, unless that illegal use its its only (or overwhelmingly primary) use, and the numerous legal uses for a WiFi locator escape you does not mean they do not exist. Assault weapons, meat cleavers, WiFi locators, lollipops, Android phones -- all of these can be used in the service of a crime. That does not make the device itself illegal.

I'm sorry, but as sucky as this is, Apple is doing the right thing. People keep complaining how Apple allows some apps to use Private APIs, but not others. Now it's more fair.

When authorizing, you enter the Email and parswosd that you had before. Then plug the computer's iPod cord into the iPod and load the music and apps into your new computer.Don't get this one stolen! LOL Was this answer helpful?

Bit brother Steve strikes again! Yet another reason to jump ship for Android ;-)
(and before anyone makes a snide comment I actually have an iPhone, as well as Android and BlackBerry devices)

WifiTrak is a great tool when traveling. I guess these will start showing up on Cydia soon.....
Just one more reason to jailbreak.....

@ZC, these apps don't find "hidden" networks. They don't show any networks that the built in WiFi App wouldn't find. The difference is they show more detail about the networks like channel, encryption and signal strength. This is very handy at a hotel for example where you have several APs in range and your trying to find the one that would work the best. If you think these apps are illegal then so is the built in App. You might as well disable WiFi completely.

Icebike, it is impossible to find networks that don't broadcast their SSID. I am not sure what you classify as a "hidden" network. BTW, I have WiFiFoFum. It will list extremely weak networks that the built in app doesn't bother listing. But they aren't hidden networks.

Big Brother is back.... that sucks for apple users.... thank the lord jesus i'm not one.

I bought an IPhone last Dec., mainly because I wanted that type smartphone and I chose to stay with AT&T because most family and friends use it.
Now , other providers are offering fantastic plans that allow their users to connect with other networks at no additional fee.
In hindsight , I wish I had waited a while , bought another type smartphone and gone with another provider other than AT&T.
I would never buy the IPad . AT&T has pitiful 3G service everywhere I have been and my city does not even have 3G yet.
If the IPad needs 3G or WiFi , how can people travel with it ?
Until WiFi is everywhere , products like the IPad are limited to use in your own home or hotels or coffee shops.
And yes ... the more I see of Apple , the more I think of Big Brother.
I know my IPhone will be the last Apple product I buy.

There are certainly a lot of adietls like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

@ermax - you are mistaken.
It is simple to detect networks that are not broadcasting their SSID becaused it is encoded within every packet trasnmitted in the clear. Simply sniffing any traffic which happens to be available at the time the tool is run will allow "hidden" networks to be found.
Turning off "broadcast SSID" is pointless. It does nothing by itself to secure your network.

You know.. late reply to this.. but I use the Wifi Scanner for work on a regular basis. We do a monthly walk through looking for unauthorized wifi networks. So there are good business reasons to have apps like this around. Removing these apps because there are unethical people using for the wrong reasons does not make sense. I am sure if these people are breaking the law by stealing service removing the app from the Appstore will not stop them from getting it via other means. Just another reason the Android market is going to be taking business away from apple I guess.

I'm going to sell my iphone, no freedom with these apps, if something is not to the likings of apple, you're jacked. Nothing is free, the storage capacity of iphone is a lie.. 32gb for.. mp3s.. no other files.. And each time you sync itunes deletes all the things that are not on the pc in question that you connect your iphone to.. GREAT feature for when on holiday.. I bought this iphone before i knew it was this horrid.. People that read this and still want an iphone.. You dont know the freedom of other brands of phones:)

go to system (store)cr9 new apple id.don sloced the minimize (store).then go to app store.choose any apps to download ..then it will ask u use apple id or cr9 new apple id choose cr8 new apple id..then put u country as US then just continue so u will see something happend hope this will helpful and my eng suck..sorry