For those who don't know: Stolen was an iOS game that gained viral popularity over the last few weeks. The app allowed you to buy, sell and trade representations of real Twitter accounts, whether they signed up for the service or not. But not everyone thought the game was a good idea, and it’s now been shut down by its creator after heavy criticism from privacy activists and politicians.
The game featured a virtual currency that was used to ‘buy’ people’s Twitter accounts. Every account on the microblogging site was up for grabs, not just the ones that used the app, and the value of profiles would rise and fall depending on how many users were competing to buy them. Once a player owned an account, it could be stolen – hence the name of the game - by any other player who had enough virtual credit to pay for it. Any players who wanted more credits to steal profiles could buy the currency using real-world money.
The exclusivity of the app - new players needed an invite code to join the game, unless already verified on Twitter – increased its popularity. Many members of Twitter’s staff, including COO Adam Bain, were players.
One criticism the game received was over the way players could assign nicknames to accounts they owned which only they could change. It was claimed that this feature could lead to online bullying and harassment, and it was removed on Wednesday.
Additional criticism was aimed at the app for the lack of an opt-out option at launch, and the fact that players could leave a message on the profile of Twitter users who had been stolen, as in the case of Gadgette tech journalist Holly Brockwell.
Developers Hey Inc eventually created an opt-out page that let people remove their profiles if they didn’t want to participate. But, as TechCrunch points out, it oddly required you to log into Twitter and authorize the app.
This didn’t stop US Representative Katherine Clark writing a letter to Twitter and Apple CEOs Jack Dorsey and Tim Cook about Stolen and how it allows players to harass people.
My letter 2 Twitter & Apple abt my concerns w/ "Stolen!" - an app that enables online abusers 2 “own” ppl’s profiles pic.twitter.com/c4ujmIq4e5— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 14, 2016
This ultimately led to Hey Inc closing the app down. It’s no longer available in the app store and the company announced that refunds would be available through Apple.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Siqi Chen, Stolen’s founder. “Whatever our intentions are, our perception and perceived harm has been out there and we didn’t see any quick fix to make sure people are and feel safe.”
The app is no longer available in the App Store. We've heard everyone's concerns and have decided the best thing to do is to shut down.— Stolen! (@getstolen) January 14, 2016
If you have done IAPs, refunds are available through iTunes. We appreciate all the support but shutting down the right thing to do right now— Stolen! (@getstolen) January 14, 2016