In-app ad blocker Been Choice was removed from the App Store last week, with Apple citing security concerns over the method it used to block ads.
But on Friday, the developers of the app noticed it had returned to the US version of the App Store.
And nobody’s more surprised than the developers themselves.
Been Choice cofounder Dave Yoon said in an emailed statement:
Around 5PM PDT Friday, the original version of our App, Choice, that was pulled from the App Store by Apple on the 8th was re-released by Apple to the US App Store. Without any action on our part. To emphasise, the version released by Apple is the original version; not one of our two modified (less powerful) versions submitted for review over the past week. We are incredibly surprised but also very happy and relieved.
Could it be a u-turn from Apple, which last week removed a swathe of apps that install root certificates on user’s phones? Or a simple mistake? We’ve contacted Apple to find out.
Last week Apple said it was “deeply committed to protecting customer privacy and security” and had removed a few apps that install root certificates, which enable the monitoring of customer network data, which could potentially compromise users’ security.
Been Choice claimed to be the first ad blocker to block ads in the Facebook app, and even Apple News, as well as a few other popular apps such as Pandora and The New York Times.
Been Choice used a technique which saw web traffic re-routed through a VPN (virtual private network) to its servers where it performed a deep packet inspection and used pattern matching to remove the ads within apps. It works in a similar way to companies that use deep packet inspection on their managed devices to ensure sensitive information never leaves their internal corporate networks. Been Choice said it only routed ad and tracker traffic through its VPN, and that it saved no data.
Having been removed from the App Store, the makers of Been Choice said they were resubmitting their app for approval, but removing the in-app blocking capability. The new version still offered ad blocking within Apple’s Safari browser, and it had a method called “Earn,” where users could opt to share their browsing behaviour in return for rewards such as PayPal credits.
Yoon seems to think that Apple has changed its mind about using root certificates to enable ad blocking. He wrote in his email:
“This original version involves installation of root certificates – the very thing that Apple wanted removed in their announcement and communication to us on the 8th, citing a privacy concern. As we’ve stated, user privacy was never and is not at risk when using Choice. In fact, we powerfully increase user control over their privacy. And root certs are routinely used in VPN settings. Apple seems to have come back around to this view as well. We of course applaud this change. The irony was not lost on us that given our core purpose — to regain, for our users, more control over their own privacy and greater ownership of the value of their own information — we would be pulled from the App Store based on privacy concerns.”
He added that although the app is capable of doing it, Been Choice has paused its ability to block trackers within “end-to-end encrypted” ads such as Facebook’s, Google,’s Yahoo’s, and Pinterest’s. It still allows users to block Apple News ads.
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