Apple removes Instagram stalking app from App Store

The Like Patrol app promised to keep tabs on partners' activity on Instagram. Apple says the app violated its guidelines.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read

Apple has removed an app that promoted stalking on Instagram. 

James Martin/CNET

Apple has removed the Like Patrol app from its App Store, following Instagram's delivery of a cease-and-desist letter to the app's developers for violating its policies against data collection. Like Patrol enables subscribers to keep constant surveillance of other people's social media activities. 

Like Patrol wanted to make spying on Instagram easier than ever, setting up a service that let paying subscribers get notifications anytime someone they followed commented on or liked a photo. It targeted people in relationships, saying they could use the app to keep tabs on whoever their partners were communicating with on Instagram. 

Instagram sent its cease-and-desist letter in late October. On Saturday, Apple removed Like Patrol from the App Store and said the app violated its guidelines.

Like Patrol's founder, Sergio Luis Quintero, told CNET in an email that the company will fight to get back on the App Store.

"We strongly believe that our app does not violate Apple policies, we plan to appeal this decision in the coming days," he said. "If our app's functionality did violate any policies, then Instagram would have violated the exact same policies since 2011 to 2019 with the Following tab. Why weren't they taken down?"

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The app first showed up in Apple's store in July. It doesn't appear in the Google Play Store for Android devices.

Like Patrol charged people up to $80 a year. It had fewer than 300 people signed up in October, Quintero said late last month in an email to CNET. 

The app isn't classified as stalkerware, which abusive partners use to keep track of private information like location data, call logs, text messages and contacts. Still, security experts found that Like Patrol was encouraging stalking behavior by monitoring people's activities on social media. 

Quintero described his app as Instagram's "Following Tab on steroids," enhancing a tool that the social network killed off in early October. Like Patrol would deliver notifications by gender, letting subscribers know if the people they followed interacted with posts from men or women and claimed to have an algorithm to detect if they were posts from attractive people.

It did this by scraping people's public profiles for data -- a practice that directly violates Instagram's policies. Four days after Instagram sent Like Patrol the cease-and-desist letter, Quintero said his company intended to fight it. 

The founder said that he would be making the app's tools open source, and available for anybody to use in the coming days.

Originally published at 7:26 a.m. PT.
Updated at 12:50 p.m. PT: To add a response from Like Patrol.

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