Apple pulls "Jew or Not a Jew?" from App Store

The iPhone application "A Jew or a not Jew" is displayed Wednesday Sept.14, 2011 in Paris.
AP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc. has removed an app from its French App Store that let users consult a database of celebrities to determine if they are Jewish or not. The action followed complaints from a French anti-racism group, which threatened to sue the iPhone maker.

SOS Racisme argued that the "Jew or Not a Jew" app violated France's laws banning the compilation of people's personal details without consent.

Under French penal code, stocking personal details including race, sexuality, political leanings or religious affiliation is punishable by five-year prison sentences and fines of up to $411,870.

This is the second high-profile case involving the pulling of a third-party application in as many days. Apple earlier booted an app called Phone Story from its App Store, a decision which rekindled a simmering debate about Apple's decision-making process. To be fair, Apple has never hidden its intention to closely curate the inventory of iPhone applications which appear on its App Store. "We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, "I'll know it when I see it". And we think that you will also know it when you cross it," Apple declares in its guidelines.

In the case of the "Jew or Not a Jew" app, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the program was removed from the French App Store, since it violated local law. It is still available outside France, and currently sells for $1.99 through Apple's U.S. App Store.

Earlier, SOS Racisme called on Apple to remove the app the from its online store and be more vigilant about the applications it sells.

"I'm not a spokesman for all Jews, but as a Jew myself I know that in our community we often ask whether a such-and-such celebrity is Jewish or not," he is quoted as saying.

"For me, there's nothing pejorative about saying that someone is Jewish or not," he said. "On the contrary, it's about being proud."

He said he compiled information about famous people around the world from various online sources.

Despite the French state's attachment to secular values, the question of public figures' religious affiliation continues to be a matter of some interest to the French public. On Google's French search engine, when a user types the name of a French celebrity, a top suggested follow up word is "Jew?"

Prasquier said that while he didn't think the phenomena suggested that France is more anti-Semitic than other countries: "because of our difficult historical memories here, we perhaps pay attention to such behavior more" than elsewhere, he said.