If you heard the sound of a thousand distant screams yesterday, it wasn't an ebbing in The Force, it was the anguished moans of college freshmen, learning that Apple had pulled DriversEd.com's free "Driver's License" app from the company's App Store. In an instant, fake IDs became minimally more difficult to manufacture.
The Driver's Licence app offered license templates for all 50 states, allowing app users drop in their own photos to create personalized ID images on their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. According to the company's website:
Download our Drivers License App and find out how you or your friends would look with a “license” from New York or even sunny California!
Take pictures with your iPhone or use pictures you already have and paste them into ‘Drivers License.’ We’ve got every single state so make a face, take a picture with friends, and go crazy! You can change all the personal info too, so the possibilities are endless. When you're done, just email your licenses or send them to Facebook for easy sharing!
Of course, the images generated by the app couldn't actually be used as IDs, but critics contended that Driver's License gave app-owners an accurate model for crafting fake IDs in other ways. For some time, Apple had fielded just such complaints from organizations like the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License.
However, Apple turned a deaf ear to those grievances until Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) recently sent a letter to Apple's CEO Tim Cook, which said, in part, "While DriversEd.com markets the app as a fun game, it can also be used in a way that allows criminals to create a new identity, steal someone else’s identity, or permit underage youth to purchase alcohol or tobacco illegally."
Apple finally listened, and yesterday -- roughly two years after the launch of Driver's License -- Apple pulled the app from the App Store. Naturally, DriversEd.com issued a snarky retort, aimed at the offending Senator's political party:
In response to a letter from Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Apple has pre-emptively pulled DriversEd.com's free "Driver License" application from the Apple Store. Senator Casey's concern is that the DriversEd.com "Driver License" app might "facilitate lawbreaking," by giving users access to a "…high quality image resembling an actual drivers' license." The DriversEd.com "Driver License" app's output is only 72 dpi, which is in fact the same resolution as the $10,000 Mitt Romney Bill released today by the Democratic National Committee. [Full PDF here]
Both sides are wrong on this one. Senator Casey overstated the case when he insisted that terrorists could use the Driver's License app to apply for a fake passport. As DriversEd.com founder Gary Tsifrin says, "By design, it would take more effort and expertise to modify the product of the DriversEd.com 'Driver License' app than to construct a counterfeit from scratch."
However, DriversEd.com has no moral superiority here. The company may have followed the letter of the law (and even App Store policies), but there's something undeniably shady about an app designed to mock-up fake IDs. And besides, if there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's that tinkerers can and will find ways to use technology to their own ends. Lightbulbs, space travel, superconductors: all these things were deemed impossible until some upstart proved the scientific community wrong. It may have been just a matter of time before the Driver's License app followed suit.
Anyone wanna wager how long it'll be before Driver's License reappears on the far-less-policed Android Market?