When Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook last week requesting that the app "Drivers License" be removed from the App Store, the company quickly jumped into action and by late Sunday night the app was gone.
Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., was convinced that the free iPhone app which allows users to create fake driver's licenses for entertainment purposes, posed a threat to public safety and national security. The high-risk app which had comfortably resided in the App Store since October of 2009 became public enemy number one overnight. While Pennsylvania battles through an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, Senator Casey is busy rescuing America from dangerous iPhone apps.
"By downloading 'License', anyone with an iPhone or iPad can easily manufacture a fake driver's license by taking a photo and inserting it into one of fifty state driver's licenses' templates," Senator Casey, wrote in his letter to Apple.
"Users then have a high quality image resembling an actual driver's license which they can easily print, laminate, and use for any number of illegal and fraudulent activities."
Surprisingly, DriversEd.com, developers of the banished app, are not embittered by Apple's choice to dismantle their little ticking time bomb or by Senator Casey's campaign to protect public safety one app at a time. I spoke to Gary Tsifrin, COO at Drivers Ed, to get his take on this developing crisis.
Tsifrin is thoroughly convinced that copy machines pose a far greater risk of being used to create fake I.D. cards than his app ever would. He likened his iPhone creation to the image of a carnival pirate with the head cut out so guests can insert their own face and snap funny photos.
"It would take much more expertise to use our app to make a fake I.D than it would to just use a photo copier," said Gary Tsifrin. "A closer look at our app reveals that the fonts, colors and dimensions of the state seals are not correct. All of the graphic elements though they they appear to be right, they are deliberately wrong."
DrversEd.com has managed a successful online driver-training site since 1997. Their wildly popular Drivers Ed app which helps users study for permit tests in various states, has surpassed 1.5 million downloads. So why would a successful company that teaches driver education put their core business at risk by launching a controversial app that one lawmaker deems as "a threat to public safety"? The simple answer is they wouldn't.
"We understand the gravity of the concerns, but now we're going to try and give a more detailed response to Senator Casey and to Apple," said Tsifrin. "One of most significant features is that the images in our app are at 72 DPI."
Gary Tsifrin argues that images of phony driver's licenses produced by his app print at an extremely low resolution and include a long list of obvious differences from authentic state I.D. cards. He intends to make those differences apparent to both Apple and Senator Casey, although I'm sure it would take an act of Congress before his "Drivers License" app will be allowed to repopulate the App Store in the near future.
"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." Senator Casey wrote.
Having downloaded the app myself, I'm certain this entire hoopla has been nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction by one distracted government official. I see no imminent danger here. Casey ought to be focused on the business of conquering far greater threats in his home state of Pennsylvania and leave the real national security risks to the experts in our Department of Homeland Security.
"I urged Apple to take the responsible step of removing this dangerous app, pleased to see it's no longer available." Casey wrote on his Twitter page.
If any government official can successfully petition Apple to remove applications from the App Store overnight without any due diligence involved, iPhone users and developers may be facing a far more dangerous terror than Bob Casey ever imagined in the land of the free.