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App Developer Hijacks Customer Twitter Accounts In An Attempt To Shame Pirates

from the and-here-comes-the-backlash dept

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for DRM in my heart, mostly because it makes me laugh. If you think about it, it's generally rather funny in its uselessness. Pirates don't care about it as they simply route around any DRM. Customers can certainly be annoyed, but they always end up with the same tools the pirates use to break the DRM on their purchased products. There's a question of legality in doing so, obviously, but generally nobody really seems to care all that much and software developers just end up in a DRM arms race against nobody, which is inherently funny. All the while, we get wonderful gems like Ubisoft's vuvuzela DRM, which was hysterical. Now, don't get me wrong, DRM sucks, but upon reading stories about its effects my range of emotions tends to be anywhere between annoyance and raucous laughter.

However, as content producers begin to wake up to the fail that is DRM, we've been discussing how using your fanbase and social constructs to shame pirates and reward customers is a better approach. And it is, but unlike DRM you better get it right, because if you screw it up the results are far beyond mild annoyance. Reader AdamR writes in about one such developer that screwed things up so badly that they ended up hijacking the Twitter accounts of some paying customers to post a "piracy confession" on their behalf.
If you search Twitter for the hashtag #softwarepirateconfession you'll find a stream of tweets stating, "How about we all stop using pirated iOS apps? I promise to stop. I really will. #softwarepirateconfession." There are many dozens of these tweets in the past day alone, all identical. So what's happening? It turns out that Enfour, the maker of a variety of dictionary apps, is auto-posting tweets to users' accounts to shame them for being pirates. But the auto-tweeting seems to be affecting a huge portion of its paid user base, not just those who actually stole the apps.
How could this happen, you wonder? Well, funny story. One proposed explanation is that there's a common tool used by people who jailbreak their iPhones and still want apps from Apple's app store, called Installous, that Enfour's apps were detecting and then, upon using the app and gaining permission to access a user's Twitter account it posted the "apology". However, others are saying that it's occurring on phones that are in fact not jailbroken. Either way, these are people that paid for the app, not pirates as their own hijacked Twitter accounts purport them to be. As one customer, Sean O'Brien, noted:
"Apparently, even though I paid nearly $25.00 for it, something in the code of this app identified me a owning a pirated copy. It then asked for access to my Twitter account through my iPhone. I gave it access because, it's the American Heritage Dictionary! If any app can be trusted with my Twitter account, it ought to be my expensive dictionary app. But no, it tweeted the following message:
"How about we all stop using pirated iOS apps? I promise to stop. I really will. #softwarepirateconfession"
As you can imagine, the paying customers are pissed. Enfour has since released an apologetic statement, first in Japanese (ostensibly folks trying to use their Enfour dictionaries to translate the apology were called pirates again), and then in English on Twitter. They also have rushed out an updated version of the app they claim fixes the "bug", but the complaints are still coming in.

Here's a piece of advice for all you developers out there. Yes, social shaming can work far better than lawsuits and DRM, but you had damned well better get it right. Hijacking the Twitter feeds of your customers, or anyone actually, is taking things in the wrong direction.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 11:57am

    "I swear I will stop using DRM products that treat me like a pirate. I promise to stop. I really will"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    mudlock (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:04pm

    Really?

    A.) $25 for a dictionary app? Really?

    B.) Even if it's the world's most reputable (and expensive) dictionary app, why would it ever need access to your twitter account, and why would you give it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

    But but but piracy!

    Everyone should just accept that we had to do this to protect ourselves, so what if we labeled you a thief after you paid us we had to make sure to shame those naughty pirates!

    I expect that the damage to their brand is going to be much worse than any "piracy" losses.

    Grats Enfour for helping customers discover other dictionary apps!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Glen, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

    I'd say this ended very well.

    At least for those of us that love a good show.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    I pirated apps up until windows server2003

    And If there is an app I want, but dont want to shell out hundreds of dollars to see how it works, or if it really fits my needs, Ill gladly do it again and no amount of shaming will stop me. Hell, ill admit it:

    I WILL PIRATE YOUR APP IN A HEARTBEAT!!!

    This is exactly why people no longer respect copyright.

    An app that steals your Twit password, nice, I really want to do business with them. /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    Surely this runs afoul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if not various libel laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:16pm

    http://www.tuaw.com/2012/11/16/enfour-shares-more-details-about-app-piracy/

    "Unfortunately, says Enfour, some old code that shouldn't have been run did get run, and that's what caused the false positives to appear in the Twitter shaming."

    You'd think they'd do a little testing on this app before pushing it out to the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    I'm actually really surprised this hasn't resulted in some sort of libel lawsuit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:30pm

    Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but a measly $25 for an app that can hijack the social media account of the customer and make it seem like they just confessed to a crime sounds like an outright steal to me! I mean, who wouldn't want an app that could get them sued, or in legal trouble, regardless of actual guilt?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Really?

    1) More money than common sense on the part of the customers.

    2) See #1.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    Re:

    Why?

    Have you seen the DMCA notices that are sent out to stop piracy? They are obviously flawed and are still sent out, and if you can find the secret path to a counter notice they just doubledown and claim they really truly believe it... even if anyone else can see the problem. There is nothing you can do because the system is lopsided, and they can't figure out why people are ignoring copyright more and more because the system is a joke.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Glen, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re:

    The day is still young.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm just saying, from a programming standpoint, sending out a product that hasn't been thoroughly tested is bad for business.

    Obviously, accusing your paying customers of piracy is also bad for business, but Hollywood has already set the example that using that assumption is an okay business practice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    Nah, pirated products are like potato chips. You just can't stop.

    Anybody got a 12-step program for this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re:

    Step 1) Download a legitimate product
    Steps 2-11) ???
    Step 12) STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re:

    "Anybody got a 12-step program for this?"

    I tried one once, but then we got to the step where they DEMANDED I accept God into my life. Apparently shouting "Go fuck yourself" over and over again, as though on loop, in a 12 step meeting will get you tossed out....just as Jesus intended....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I don't know... it has been working pretty well for Microsoft ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Haha, too true.

    It's funny, my brother-in-law is a software engineer who designs medical software for a bunch of hospitals in California.

    He told me Microsoft has always piggybacked on the updates other software companies put out for their products.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    ComputerAddict (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re:

    People wronged by this want to file a lawsuit, but they forgot what it is called, and no longer trust their dictionary app to research it for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:26pm

    25$ for a keylogger fuck that just go to some asian porn site and you can get one for free

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Atkray (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re:

    Why would there be lawsuits? Calling someone a pirate is perfectly acceptable.

    Truth and facts have no place in the war on piracy.

    Also... even if you paid for the app it doesn't mean you aren't a pirate.

    If someone does sue expect MPAA & RIAA to become involved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    Sounds an awful lot like identity theft. But corporations can't be charged with that, can they?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    Come on, out_of_the_ass. Defend this behaviour!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:30pm

    Re: I pirated apps up until windows server2003

    An app that steals your Twit password, nice, I really want to do business with them. /s

    lol fuck that i pirated one off a porn site, i'm so freetarded i even pirate my malware, gotta kill the hacker industry

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    nah, part of the agreement you "sign" when you download their apps is they have full control of everything you do, make and have, as well as your soul


    so no, they can't be at fault since you "agreed" to let them own your twitter account (and soul)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    And..... let the law suits begins.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Torg (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 1:41pm

    I'm impressed. They figured out how to get paid for astroturfing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well, at least they didn't get to the "Summon Cthuloid Jesus" step.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's the non-euclidean step before 12.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nah, they mentioned software piracy specifically. No MPAA/RIAA. We'll get the BSA instead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Benjamin C. Wade, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 3:00pm

    But...think of the children!!!!

    I solemnly swear not to buy DRM'd software.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 19th, 2012 @ 5:11pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And from the corporate standpoint its wasted money.
    The tech is just going to work exactly how we wanted it to, and these programmer types are just trying to fluff their checks out, because its what I (execudrone) would do.

    We are the only way they can have access to this, so we don't have to worry about getting a bad name. Just wait some other dictionary will get popular and end up being sued because someone has rights to half the words. Yeah that does sound stupid, but I give you rounded rectangles. Corporations enjoy burning away money destroying competition even if they are in the wrong, because they sue the smaller guy out of business and by the assets for a song.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 6:09pm

    what do you do for people who are not ashamed of pirating software? Its not a big deal to 99% of the people, hell, even my mom, who is the perfect citizen and should be awarded citizen of the year, does not care about piracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Nic, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 9:52pm

    That moron could easily go to jail for a long time if people report what he's done to the authorities.

    What he's done is considered Computer Fraud and access without authorization. Computer Fraud crimes, to my knowledge can land you up to 10-20 years in jail in most countries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), Nov 20th, 2012 @ 4:01am

    Sounds like libel per se to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Nov 20th, 2012 @ 4:31am

    Re:

    It's not computer fraud. The program did not break into their twitter accounts. It asked for permission to post (like almost every smartphone app these days, whether they need it or not) and the users gave it permission.

    Libel is probably a fair suit, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Michael, Nov 20th, 2012 @ 5:12am

    Re:

    I'll try it for him:

    This is totally blown out of proportion Mikey [even though he didn't write the article]. This tiny bug only impacted a small portion of the legitimate users - 42% [totally made up stat, of course]. They ACCEPTED the app using their twitter account, so they have nothing to complain about.

    This is totally worth it for the 15 or 20 pirates it has actually shamed. 92.4% [again, totally made up stat] of the shamed pirates immediately purchased the app. So this, once again, shows that you don't know what you are talking about Mikey. Plus, the buggy code was planted by Google agents and you know it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2012 @ 6:49am

    I haven't pirated enough software today.
    #softwarepirateconfession

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2012 @ 6:50am

    I haven't pirated enough software today.

    #softwarepirateconfession

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Nov 20th, 2012 @ 6:51am

    Re: Really?

    If iOS is like Android, you can't pick and choose which pwrmissions to grant, it's everything the app asks for or don't install it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Nov 20th, 2012 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re:

    I'm sure someone could get malicious cyber-bullying, and even some sort of hacking/cyberwarfare charge if imaginative enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    TFP, Nov 20th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    If

    If I had brought the app and they accused me of being a pirate, I would demand my money back, and if they refused I would take them into Small Claims Court (UK), and probably sue for libel.

    Let a company take the piss and you deserve everything you get.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    Tex Arcana (profile), Nov 22nd, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Tex Arcana (profile), Nov 22nd, 2012 @ 4:13pm

    Re:

    Of course not, because ALL custo:tard:s are pirates!!

    http://i.imgur.com/q9mFm.jpg

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Ihtdc, Nov 28th, 2012 @ 6:40am

    Re: But but but ... Piracy!

    How can you blame them? If 90% of their software is pirated, they should just pull the trigger without checking to see whether your particular copy is legitimate, they will be right 9 times more often than they are wrong.

    Think of how much THAT will contribute to their bottom line!!! :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Ihtdc, Nov 28th, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Re: Really?

    A $25 dictionary app is worth it if it gives you access to a full, comprehensive dictionary without requiring wireless access, which is not always available. Obviously, Enfour's dictionaries failed miserably in this regard.

    A $25 dictionary app is also worth it if it gives a copyright date for its definitions. There are times you may need to show what someone actually meant by using an authoritative, contemporaneous dictionary. (Maybe you need to show what a word means in a contract, for example, or perhaps the meaning of a technical term has evolved since the manual you are using was written.) You can't do that with an Internet dictionary, because anything in it could change without notice at any time, and the Wayback machine doesn't catch everything. To put it more succinctly, the Internet destroys history.

    The reason to let it access your Twitter account is that you shouldn't. But the app apparently gave you no choice, did not explain why it was doing so, and shut down completely if you didn't grant this access while it was misfiring.

    So, yes, there is a market for a convenient, self-contained, authoritative dictionary at that price point, and perhaps even at higher price points. But not Enfour's dictionaries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: But but but ... Piracy!

    $0.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Ihtdc, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: But but but ... Piracy!

    Not completely true. They could fill up their accounting spreadsheets with pure imaginary numbers.

    But then you would have to rotate the spreadsheets 90 degrees to find their bottom line.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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