Apple quietly pulls apology-hiding code from U.K. site

Visitors to Apple's U.K. Web site are no longer forced to scroll down to view a court-ordered apology to Samsung, after Apple tried to bury it using hidden code.

Zack Whittaker Writer-editor
Zack Whittaker is a former security editor for CNET's sister site ZDNet.
Zack Whittaker
4 min read

While Apple has removed the 'resize' code that forced users to scroll down the page to view the court-ordered apology text, you still require a large display to view the apology. Screenshot by Zack Whittaker/CNET

Less than a week after Apple was rumbled by Reddit users for including code to hide a court-ordered apology to Samsung on its U.K. Web site, the code has now been removed.

The code forced visitors to scroll down the page in order to see an apology that Apple was ordered to display on its U.K. Web site for one month, by resizing the central image of the new iPad mini and "sticking" four separate product advertisements at the bottom of the browser window.

This meant that no matter how tall their browser window is or how dense their screen resolution, visitors to the site had to forcibly scroll down the page to view the apology to Samsung.

The Apple U.K. Web site now displays two alternating fixed-sized images of the iPad Mini and the new iPad with Retina display -- refreshing the page cycles between the two recently launched products -- while the four boxes underneath are no longer fixed to the bottom of the display. Although the central images are still large and many displays require the user to scroll down, the forced-scrolling "resize" code is no longer loaded into the Web site's code.

Though the code still exists on Apple's servers (it can be found here), it is no longer called upon when the U.K. Web site loads up. It was also uploaded to code-sharing site Pastebin as a "backup" by one Reddit user in case it vanished into the online ether.

Reddit users and Hacker News readers erupted after the "resize" code was discovered on Apple's U.K. Web site, and they lambasted the technology giant for trying to once again circumvent the court order by attempting to hide the apology off-screen.

While one commenter said it was "far more likely" that the resize code was "just related to new product announcements than any nefarious scheme," another reader called it "plausible deniability in action."

On October 18, U.K. High Court Judge Colin Birss told Apple to retain a statement on its U.K. Web site for one month, and once in a series of print publications, after the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant lost a court case against Samsung, which found the Korean tablet rival did not infringe Apple's design patents.

However, Apple embellished the U.K. Web site statement with additional details, which Samsung took exception to.

During a hearing at the U.K. Court of Appeal, Apple was criticized by the appeals judges for running the "untrue" and "incorrect" statement, in which the company took Birss' comments out of context in a bid to water down the effect of the so-called "apology" statement, and noted rulings around the world that had gone in Apple's favor.

Apple avoided a contempt-of-court ruling in part because it did include the two court-ordered paragraphs in its original statement, even if it did add contextual details that were not sanctioned by the court.

The iPhone and iPad maker asked for 14 days to change the statement, which ruffled the judges' feathers even more. One of the appeals judges, Robin Jacob, called for Apple chief executive Tim Cook to "make an affidavit about why that is such a technical difficulty for the Apple company," reports the BBC News.

However, it remains unclear whether or not this was a direct call for Cook to carry out the order, or if it was merely a flippant remark directed at the Apple lawyer in the room.

The "advertisement" statement in the print publications did not contain any additional detail beyond the two paragraphs that were ordered by the court to be included, CNET's Charlie Osborne reported.

The current apology on Apple's U.K. Web site now admits that its previous statement was not compliant with the court's wishes, and links to the updated statement on a separate page with the two court-ordered paragraphs that were also printed in the court selected U.K. newspapers and magazines.

In full, it states:

On 25 October 2012, Apple Inc. published a statement on its UK website in relation to Samsung's Galaxy tablet computers. That statement was inaccurate and did not comply with the order of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The correct statement is at Samsung/Apple UK judgement.

Apple did not return calls or emails for comment when contacted by CNET. Questions have been left with Samsung and we'll update the piece when we hear back.