Apple Approves Data Throttling Detection App After Blocking It

App-Speed-Throttling Credit: Jason Koebler
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Apple has reportedly changed its mind about blocking an iOS app that claims to be able to detect net neutrality violations and data throttling.

The app is called Wehe, and it was created by a Northeastern University researcher named David Choffnes. And while its premise of detecting data throttling seems straightforward, Apple allegedly blocked the app from its iOS App Store, Motherboard reported early Thursday morning.

Why Was Wehe Blocked?

An App Store editor got in contact with Choffnes and told him that his app had “no direct benefits to the user.” The only explanation for the refusal was that the app contained “Objectionable Content” — which Motherboard reports is a catch-all for apps that Apple just simply doesn’t want to approve.

But after Motherboard’s piece, Apple apparently told Choffnes that his iPhone app will be allowed in the App Store after all. Apple asked the researcher to provide technical descriptions of how the app works. After about 18 hours, Wehe was approved for the App Store.

When contacting Choffnes, Apple said that its reviewers have to deal with many fraudulent apps that don’t do what they claim to. “The conversation was very pleasant, but did not provide any insight into the review process (that) led the app to be rejected in the first place,” Choffnes told the publication.

What Does the Wehe App Do?

As for the Wehe app itself, it’s a simple platform that supposedly lets users know if they are being throttled by telecom companies and internet providers. Choffnes said he created the app after years of reverse-engineering ISP data throttling measures. And with the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, the public seems primed for an app like Wehe.

When the app is first opened, users must consent to having their speed data used in Choffnes’ research. But after that, the app tests download speeds from a slew of popular platforms, including YouTube, Amazon, Netflix and Spotify. The app will then let users know if those services are being throttled by their providers.

Net Neutrality Repeal Concerns

That point may prove to be important since the FCC had previously claimed that “consumer backlash” could deter ISPs can taking advantage of net neutrality repeal. Of course, without the tools necessary, it’s basically impossible for users to know whether or not their data is actually being throttled.

Worryingly, while the repeal of net neutrality isn’t slated to actually take place until later this year, Choffnes’ researcher suggests that ISPs already throttle data to a certain degree.

The battle for net neutrality may seem hopeless for many internet users — despite the fact that it’s a conflict that’ll likely soon end up in the courts. But a simple app like Wehe could give outraged consumers a small sense of agency. And while Wehe doesn’t appear to be on the App Store currently, it’s likely to show up soon.

Knowledge is power, as they say, and being able to tell that their data is being throttled is likely to be important to many net neutrality proponents.

[Update 01/19/2018: Wehe is now available on the App Store.]

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