• Apple's Stance on Bitcoins and Bitcoin-Related Apps

    Over the past few years, Apple has continuously removed, denied, or otherwise prevented a number of Bitcoin-related apps from being made available to users through the App Store. More recently, the company required the developers behind Gliph, a secure messaging app that also allowed users to transfer bitcoin from one Gliph user to another, to remove the bitcoin sending feature from its app. Apple has told several developers behind bitcoin-related apps that their apps contain content or facilitate, enable or encourage an activity “that is not legal in all of the locations in which the app is available, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bitcoins, they are a virtual currency, not issued by any government that can be transferred electronically from one wallet to another. The value of the currency seems to be incredibly volatile, with its USD exchange rate going from under $400 to more than $1200 in the past month. At one point, the price of a single bitcoin moved from roughly $1155 to $576 in a few hours. Bitcoins seem to be currently available for around $900 on the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange.

    This concept of a private virtual currency is a foreign one for governments that can have difficulty staying in the same decade as quickly emerging technologies. Both domestic and international governments seem to be struggling with the currency and how to regulate it. China seems to have banned financial institutions from handling bitcoin transactions, though person-to-person transactions still seem to be allowed. On the other hand, the US government seems to have taken a more positive view of the bitcoin. The US Department of Justice said in a Senate hearing that bitcoins can be “legal means of exchange” and that bitcoin is not “in and of [itself], illegal.” Analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a recent research report that bitcoin could eventually become a “major means of payment for commerce” and a “serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers.” However, federal anti-money laundering and terrorism financing statutes would appear to conflict with the fast-paced development that has pushed bitcoin growth thus far.

    Apple for the most part has declined to explain how bitcoin-transferring or trading apps could be approved, nor in what countries the bitcoin functionality might not be allowed. It merely refers to section 22.1 of the App Store review guidelines which states that it is the “developer’s obligation to understand and conform to all local laws.” The Cupertino California company appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach, both protecting itself and perhaps more importantly to the company, protecting its users.

    The Gliph blog has one possible theory for Apple's apparent disinclination towards Bitcoin apps:

    Among other possible reasons, we wonder if Apple simply doesn’t want to police useful Bitcoin apps in the App Store because they perceive the legal ambiguity of the currency as more trouble than it is worth. Bitcoin is still in an early-adopter phase and probably the majority of Apple’s customers are unaware the currency exists and not looking for these types of apps anyway. Better to avoid this type of software for now, and take the option to change their mind in the future.
    It should be noted that there still seem to be bitcoin-related apps in the App Store, however most don’t provide the ability to purchase, sell or transfer bitcoins. As a result some exchanges, including Mt. Gox, one of the largest, have instead chosen to develop mobile websites for wallet-holders rather than dedicated apps. Google seems to have taken a more hands-off approach, largely allowing bitcoin apps to remain on its Google Play store. As the currency becomes more widely accepted and regulated by Governments and large financial institutions, Apple may be more accepting but in the meantime, the company seems to have made its position clear.

    Have you jumped in on the bitcoin bandwagon? Or are you steering clear for now?

    Source: Bloomberg (1) (2), Gliph (blog), NY Times via MacRumors
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple's Stance on Bitcoins and Bitcoin-Related Apps started by Akshay Masand View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. law111's Avatar
      law111 -
      I want to jailbreak my... iPhone 5 / 5S?
    1. LucasPukus69's Avatar
      LucasPukus69 -
      Ive jumped on with everything but the kitchen sink! Kinda feels like buying Apple at $1 per share
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