Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Modest Proposal

Mr. Jobs,

Sitting on my desk right now is a brand-new 32 GB iPod Touch, happily charging away. I’ve used it for the last few weeks to watch movies while I while away the 1 ½ hour commute I have home from work each night. I use it for e-mail, for blogging, for Twitter and Facebook and, I have to confess, I’m addicted to a Sponge Bob Square Pants game I found for free in the app store.

I have to confess, however, I’m having a recurring difficulty with your product that is presenting me with a problem:

I’m embarrassed to show the app store to my wife.

She, too, has a 32 GB iPod Touch that, by all indications, she seems to enjoy well. She’s downloaded a few apps, but has not spent much time perusing the app store’s offerings. In my eye, that’s a good thing – but bad for Apple – because of some of the apps she might encounter.

I’m speaking here of adult-oriented content in the app store. That there are such applications as iBoobs and the like, I suppose there’s little I can do about, given that we live in an age where such displays are acceptable. I know through research on the Web that pornography and adult-oriented apps have been and likely will continue to be a serious issue for Apple and any other company that offers similar devices and services.

I’d rather not have such apps show up when I’m searching randomly through the app store. I know the iPod Touch has parental controls that can restrict the use of explicit apps, but as explicitness is in the eye of the beholder, the control is weak at best. Additionally, I don’t have to download an app to be exposed to something I’d rather not see, nor have my wife see when she strolls through the store.

I have strong, personal reasons for wanting to avoid any kind of pornographic images entering my life. My younger brother destroyed his marriage through a pornography addiction. Subsequent emotional turmoil nearly caused him to take his life. He’s gone through hell, Mr. Jobs, because of poor choices he made, but also because our permissive society shrugs at the availability of pornography in all its forms, whether it be hard pornography that the app store, rightly, will not supply, or soft porn, which is multiplying in the app store at a slow but steady rate.

I won’t propose a ban on such apps. I would advise, however, that Apple explore strengthening parental controls in the iPod Touch/iPhone software to perform the following:
  • Prevent explicit apps from appearing in the app store. Here, explicitness would be based first on content, second on the icon image the app displays, lastly on the app title
  • The software would allow the user to turn this feature on or off, thus offering the option to those who do not wish to be exposed to explicit or adult content in any way the option of opting out.
Popping the “you must be 17 years or older” question and requiring a code to download such apps now are steps in the right direction, but I’d still rather not see even the introductory image to the adult-oriented apps currently available. I’d rather my boys not see them. I’d rather my daughter and my wife not see them. It is easier to avoid stepping on a mine if one does not enter the minefield to begin with. The app store, in its current configuration, even with parental controls, invites us into the minefield to pick the good fruit off the apple tree – no pun intended.


Maaike said...

Have you sent this letter in? I'd sign it too!! Excellent work, Bri!

Mister Fweem said...

I plan on it. I just don't want to see this kind of stuff.