Computer Ethics, Fall 2020

Class 2 Readings

Before class 2, finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

The Apple App Store

To run an app on an iPhone, it pretty much has to be in the Apple App Store. Apple's stated reason for this is security, and they have indeed been extremely successful at keeping malware and spyware off of iPhones. But they charge 30% of an app's fees (special rules apply to continuing subscriptions, like Spotify, and no fee is charged to free apps that sell non-app physical merchandise, like Amazon).

Game vendor Epic, maker of Fortnite, just got itself kicked off the App Store for changing their rules on in-app purchases. They have filed antitrust litigation against Apple; this is clearly part of a long-planned battle.

What do you think?


And there has been weird collateral fallout: Apple ordered Wordpress, a free app, to create non-free tiers so Apple could get 30% of something. Then Apple backed off. Apple claimed Wordpress had agreed to make changes, but that seems false:

Also, the CEO of Epic Games had apparently asked weeks ago for a break from the 30% rule. Apple said no, setting the stage for the showdown. See also

A couple further notes:

  1. Facebook sells ads on the Facebook app, and yet they've never been asked to cough up 30% of sales.
  2. This is an ongoing issue for Spotify, but Apple took 30% during the iTunes years so there's precedent there.
  3. If the fees are just about app security, then evaluating the security of an app isn't really at all proportional to sales volume. So Epic Games has a point that their app-review fees amount to millions of dollars, while for small devs it may just be their $100 entry fee.

Some schools are doing weird things with Covid. Albion College (Michigan) makes students install a real-time GPS tracker that is very poorly secured (maybe it is now fixed, maybe not). See Students who leave campus for any reason may be expelled. Oklahoma State uses their Wi-Fi system to track each students' use of each access point. They have cameras too, and card swipes, and also course-attendance records (

Do you have any rights in a pandemic? How do these approaches compare with the Apple/Google model, in which your app would record other phones that came within six feet, and log them only on the phone, and periodically you could check to see if any of those people came down with Covid19 (though you wouldn't get their names).

Who is copyright for? And how does this affect our sense of how copyright laws should be interpreted in "edge" cases?

Ethical theory