Apple pulls plug on 'Jew or not Jew' iPhone app - but only in France

15 September 2011

Following pressure from French Jewish institutions and anti-racism campaigners, the IT giant Apple Inc. has removed from its French online store an application called ‘Jew or Not Jew’ that claims to allow users to identify whether a politician or celebrity is Jewish. The critics said the ‘app’ breached French law which bans disclosing people's religion without their consent or compiling data about people's religions. Groups that objected to the app included the Jewish umbrella group CRIF and the Union of Jewish Students in France. The French anti-racism group SOS Racisme threatened to sue Apple.

CRIF President Richard Prasquier told the news agency AP: “It’s not only shocking but also illegal. In France, we make a very important distinction that doesn’t exist in the same way in the United States between the public and private spheres. If someone wants something as personal as his religion to remain private, it must remain that way.”

Announcing the withdrawal of the application, an Apple spokesman said: "This app violates local law and is no longer available on the app store in France." However, the software, programmed for the popular iPhone, continues to be available in online stores outside of France, including Apple’s biggest market, the US. The ‘Jew or Not Jew’ app is on sale for US$ 1.99 in America but cost only € 0.79 in France.

It was developed by French-British software engineer Johann Lévy, who is a Jew himself and sought to propose a "recreational" tool for users curious about the religious background of famous people. He said he had not been aware that he was doing something illegal said he did not have racist or anti-Semitic intentions. "I am not a spokesman for all Jews, but as a Jew myself, I know that in our community we often ask whether such and such celebrity is Jewish or not," Lévy told the newspaper ‘Le Parisien’.

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