Sex offender locator app pulled

The iPhone application Offender Locator, designed to locate sexual offenders, has been deleted from the App Store and the reasons for its disappearance are uncertain

Apple booted another popular app today from its iPhone App Store and it appears it did the right thing.

The iPhone application Offender Locator, designed to locate sexual offenders, has been deleted from the App Store and the reasons for its disappearance are uncertain. But some have it that Apple is merely complying with California state laws prohibiting the sale of criminal information for a profit.

If true, I support Apple's decision because it creeps me out to think some company is attempting to profit off of sexual predators. This information is free and access should remain that way.

There are reports the developers of Offender Locator are prepping a lawsuit, presumably because Apple's reasoning wasn't good enough. But is the fuss worth it, or is this an attempt by the makers of Offender Locator on lashing out at Apple and attempting to jump on the you've-got-some-nerve-to-ban-my-app bandwagon and tarnish the App Store's reputation?

Offender Locator, published by ThinAir Wireless, uses the iPhone's GPS to scout the locations of registered sex offenders living in a designated area. Users can click on an address and pull up detailed information about the offender -- all of which is readily available through innumerable Web sites such as Family Watchdog (which already has an iPhone app of its own). Offender Locator sat on the top 10 paid apps list for many weeks before succumbing to a fate that has befallen many controversial iPhone apps.

So what's the big deal? I'm not sure. An app called Offender Locator Lite, also published by ThinAir Wireless, still exists and is available for download in the App Store. Based on reviews, I cannot see the difference; the two apps have identical functions.

This may just be another opportunity for people to rail against Apple's App Store policies. While its policies shift and sway and never quite make sense, Apple is complying with the many negative forces surrounding it. Clarity will come.

As for the controversial aspects of Offender Locator, some blogs are suggesting the app itself is unnecessary and does nothing but fuel paranoia. I don't see it that way.

There's a sexual offender registry for a reason, and while it sometimes goes overboard (arrest for public urination often requires registering), the information is necessary and made available for comfort and security reasons.

I suggest if the makers of Offender Locator are interested in profiteering off of this topic they start a television show called something like To Catch a Creep and sell advertising against it. Oh, someone beat you to it.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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