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The Iranian government released an official coronavirus app for Iranians, but Google pulled it from its app store

Friday, March 13, 2020

Sharon feiereisen

The Iranian government released a coronavirus app named AC19, but Google removed it from its Play Store this week.

The app „tries to reach a clinical decision by asking a few medical questions,“ according to its description.

Though some worried that the app was intended as a spying tool for the Iranian government, a ZDNet report found the software free of spyware.

Instead, it’s said to have been removed by Google due to a claim that it could detect coronavirus patients solely through the app.

The answer appears to be more simple than that: Iranian developer accounts aren’t allowed on Google Play, according to public terms of service statements from Google.

Iran has been hit harder than most countries facing coronavirus outbreaks.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Iran ranks third among countries with reported cases, and third in death toll with 291 fatalities.

The Iranian government has taken drastic measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, from closing schools to disinfecting mosques and canceling cultural events. It also released an Android app intended to help people self-diagnose rather than going to a hospital.

But that app was booted from Google’s Play Store recently, reports ZDNet.

Why?

Because of „misleading claims,“ according to the report, „that it could detect COVID-19 infections, something that is impossible through an app.“

The app, which is still available through the web, initially faced concerns that the Iranian government was using it as a means of spying on people. But a malware researcher ZDNet worked with, Lukas Stefanko, examined the app and found nothing to indicate it was spying on people any more than we expect apps to spy on people.

„The app is not a malicious Trojan or spyware,“ he said. Though it asks for permissions, he said those permissions are nothing beyond what you would grant any other health-based app.

Concerns arose when the app’s maker was revealed: Smart Land Strategy, a group that created previous apps that were accused of containing spyware – apps that were reportedly created for the Iranian government.

A Google spokesperson told Business Insider that the answer is more simple than the report suggests: Developer accounts from Iran are not allowed on Google Play. They also provided a link to this page of „Supported locations for developer & merchant registration.“ That page is excludes Iran, which is not a supported region for app makers.

 

Source: Business Insider