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Apple Takes Down ‘Kimi’ App for Illegal Activity

ByHuey Yee Ong

Feb 16, 2024
Apple Takes Down 'Kimi' App for Illegal Activity

An app called Kimi became hugely popular on the Apple App Store, surpassing big names in the streaming industry like Netflix and Prime Video. It claimed to be a vision testing tool but was subsequently removed by Apple because it was being used to watch pirated movies and TV shows. Wired found out that Kimi wasn’t just a harmless app for testing your eyesight with photo games. It was secretly offering illegal movies and shows, including ones that had just been released and were getting great reviews.

Was Kimi Really About Vision Testing or Piracy?

The saga of Kimi brings to the forefront the ever-present issue of digital piracy, reminiscent of the days before streaming services became the norm. The app offered a mixed bag of content quality—some films, like the grainy and pixelated copy of “Poor Things” featuring Emma Stone, bore the hallmarks of early piracy efforts. In contrast, other content was available in high-definition but was hindered by intrusive advertising. The simplicity and intuitiveness of Kimi’s interface made pirated content alarmingly accessible, drawing parallels to Popcorn Time, a service notorious for its user-friendly approach to movie piracy that ceased operations in 2022.

How Effective Are Apple’s App Store Security Measures?

To dissect Apple’s approach towards maintaining a secure and trustworthy environment within its App Store, below are the key components of its security measures:

  • Stringent App Review Process: Apple employs a rigorous review process aimed at ensuring only compliant applications are allowed on the App Store.
  • Privacy and Safety Commitment: The company emphasizes user privacy and safety as core values in its app selection criteria.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Apple aims to align its operations with international regulations like the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).
  • Challenges Identified:
    • Vulnerabilities in Oversight: The appearance of Kimi on the App Store has revealed potential weaknesses in Apple’s app review and oversight mechanisms.
    • Rising Piracy Concerns: Consumer frustration over the cost of multiple streaming subscriptions may be contributing to a resurgence in the popularity of piracy.

Kimi’s Design: Ingenious or Insidious?

The duplicitous nature of Kimi has sparked discussions about the effectiveness of Apple’s app vetting process. On the surface, the app promised an “interesting” way to test one’s eyesight, yet, in practice, it blatantly provided pirated movies and TV shows without any attempt to hide its true purpose. This immediate access to illegal content, devoid of any pretense or complex unlocking mechanisms, revealed a glaring oversight in the app’s review and approval. User reviews on the App Store, some of which candidly compared Kimi to Netflix, underscored the app’s popularity as an alternative to legitimate streaming services, despite its illicit nature.

Kimi’s design emphasized ease of use, with straightforward filtering options and a tab showcasing popular or recently added movies, facilitating quick access to desired content. While the app did include some low-quality recordings, the overall functionality aimed to replicate the streaming experience without regard for copyright laws. This approach, devoid of any genuine appreciation for cinema or legal considerations, starkly contrasts with the principles of legitimate content distribution platforms.

The emergence of Kimi and its subsequent removal raise critical questions about the challenges Apple faces in policing its ecosystem. The company’s historical defense of its closed App Store model, which it argues is essential for protecting users from malware and phishing attempts, appears somewhat undermined by incidents like these. The discovery of Kimi, alongside other recent controversies such as phishing apps impersonating reputable services like LastPass, highlights the complexity of maintaining a secure digital environment in an era where users demand both safety and a wide array of content choices.

The Implications of Kimi’s Removal for Apple and Content Creators

The removal of Kimi from the App Store not only raises questions about the effectiveness of Apple’s security measures but also signals broader implications for the digital content ecosystem. To better understand these consequences, here are the key implications outlined:

  • Apple’s App Store Integrity: The incident calls into question the effectiveness of Apple’s stringent app review process, emphasizing the need for even more robust security measures to prevent similar breaches.
  • Consumer Trust and Safety: Highlights the importance of maintaining consumer trust by ensuring that all apps within the App Store adhere to legal and ethical standards.
  • Piracy Resurgence: Suggests a potential resurgence in digital piracy, driven by consumer frustration over the costs of accessing multiple streaming services.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Reaffirms Apple’s commitment to complying with international regulations, such as the EU’s Digital Markets Act, while facing challenges in app store management.
  • Content Creators’ Rights: Underlines the ongoing battle to protect intellectual property rights in the digital age, where piracy can quickly undermine creators’ efforts and revenue.
  • Future of Digital Distribution: The incident serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between providing access to content and ensuring that distribution channels remain legal and fair for all parties involved.

Lessons Learnt

This episode serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring appeal of freely accessible content and the sophisticated tactics employed by those aiming to bypass legal content distribution channels. As digital consumption habits evolve, so too do the strategies of copyright infringers, necessitating continuous vigilance and innovation from content providers and platform operators like Apple. The company’s response to the Kimi incident, involving the app’s removal and potential reassessment of review processes, reflects a commitment to addressing these challenges head-on.

In conclusion, the Kimi app’s brief tenure at the top of the App Store’s rankings represents a multifaceted dilemma encompassing digital piracy, platform security, and the broader implications for copyright enforcement in the digital age. As Apple navigates the repercussions of this incident, the episode underscores the ongoing tension between the desire for open access to content and the imperative to protect intellectual property rights. The evolving narrative of digital content distribution continues to present challenges and opportunities for innovators and regulators alike, highlighting the need for a balanced approach that respects both creators’ rights and consumers’ desires for diverse and accessible content.

Featured Image courtesy of Gado/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.