Dec. 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM ET
An iPhone app meant to provide driver's education to students around the country has been pulled by Apple from the App Store after a campaign to do so by a U.S. senator and the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License. Both contend that the DriversEd app includes templates that can be used to create fake driver's licenses in any state, which can then be printed and laminated "creating a high-quality counterfeit driver's license difficult to discern from one that's genuine."
The creators of the app say that's just not so, saying it was "specifically and deliberately designed ... to prevent the creation of counterfeit identification."
The company says that since 2009, the free app, which is more about driving laws than fake licenses, "has allowed users to put their faces on a low-res mockup of their state's license. The app is a digital-age version of using a photo booth at the beach."
When an app license is printed, the "output is only 72 dpi, which is in fact the same resolution as the $10,000 Mitt Romney Bill released ... by the Democratic National Committee," DriversEd.com said.
Any license created with the app "cannot be mistaken for a fake ID because the design elements deliberately do not correspond to government issued ID."
"By design, it would take more effort and expertise to modify the product of the DriversEd.com 'Driver License' app than to construct a counterfeit from scratch," said Gary Tsifrin, DriversEd.com founder and chief operating officer, in a statement.
The app incorporates "obvious layout differences, font and color discrepancies, and the words 'MOCK by DriversEd.com' in proximity to the word 'license,' and has "none of the security features of a modern government-issued ID."
(While the "MOCK' phrase is there — see example above — it is a bit tinier than it probably should be, which could be among the reasons the coalition objected, and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, took up the cause.)
The coalition unsuccessfully tried last spring to get the app pulled; it was the senator's letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook that seems to have done the trick. (We've asked Apple for comment.)
In his letter, Casey said that the app "can be used to create counterfeit identity documents. I believe this application poses a threat to public safety and national security, and I request that you remove it from the App Store immediately."
Further, he wrote:
While DriversEd.com markets the app as a fun game, it can also be used in a way that allows criminals to create a new identity, steal someone else’s identity, or permit underage youth to purchase alcohol or tobacco illegally. National security systems depend on the trustworthiness of driver’s licenses, yet with a counterfeit license created by this app, a terrorist could bypass identity verification by the Transportation Security Administration, or even apply for a passport.
DriversEd.com obviously disagrees with Apple's decision, and is appealing.
"We believe Apple pulled the app prematurely," the company said in a statement. "We hope ... Apple will take one more look at the DriversEd.com 'Driver License' app.”
And pulling the app from the App Store doesn't totally eradicate it. It's also available for Android in the Android Market.