One month ago, we laid out a list of eight obvious things Apple could do to prove it puts App Store users ahead of profits. Today I learned the company acted on at least one of these ideas: Apple will now let you directly report a scammy app from its listing in the App Store with a new-and-improved version of its “Report a Problem” button.
As Richard Mazkewich and scam hunter Kosta Eleftheriou point out on Twitter, the button has not only returned to individual app listings for the first time in years, it now includes a dedicated “Report a scam or fraud” option in the drop-down menu.
Until iOS 15, the only way you could find this button was to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Apps or Games tab in the App Store, get kicked out to a website where you’d need to re-sign in. Then you could pick from “Report suspicious activity,” “Report a quality issue”, “Request a refund” or “Find my content.” None of the options offered a clear way to report a scam, and the “Report suspicious activity” would redirect you to Apple Support instead.
To add insult to injury, Apple would only let you report “a quality issue” if you’d already paid money (and thus fallen for the scam).
But now, it seems like every free app with in-app-purchases appears to offer the “Report a Problem” option. I checked a handful of apps I’ve never paid for (but could have) and they all displayed the button. You’ll still get kicked out to a website where you’ll need to sign in, but overall this seems like a step forward.
Apple says the button is only be available in certain regions — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US to start — but that it will expand to more “over time.” The company also says the button is available on macOS Monterey, but that update is still in beta ahead of its official release sometime this fall.
Is Apple actually hiring scam investigators?
Of course, the big question is whether Apple will actually take action on any reports. Another thing we pointed out last month is that Apple only has 500 human app reviewers — compared to 15,000 content moderators at Facebook, 20,000 at Google, and, yes, 2,200 at Twitter (a company far from the most valuable and profitable in the world).
Intriguingly, there may be some movement on that front too: Eleftheriou pointed out to me that Apple began hiring for an “ASI Investigator” position on September 8th. “ASI Investigators are accountable for investigating fraudulent apps and trends, as well as the developers involved,” part of the job posting read.
Shame that job posting no longer exists; it’s been taken down.
Perhaps, at the very least, Apple’s automated systems can use the new data to sound the alarm when a scam app crosses a predefined threshold.
Apple definitely seems to be listening to the recent wave of anger around the App Store. In addition to a variety of small forced concessions in the wake of judicial and regulatory scrutiny, Apple just started allowing users to review the company’s own apps that it bundles with every iPhone. Apple Podcasts, Weather, and even the built in Calculator app are all fair game for angry 1-star reviews. Immunity from user scrutiny may not be the most egregious advantage Apple has enjoyed in its own App Store, but it’s nice to see the company leveling the playing field even a little bit.
Here are the other suggestions we had for Apple’s App Store, and a brief history of significant policy changes that Apple’s made over the years. Yes, we’re keeping track.
Update October 6th, 12:44PM ET: Added the regions where the report button is available and that it is also included in macOS Monterey.