Apple's 'Freedom From Porn' Enforcer Drawn To Porn Stars and Escorts on TwitterS

As the director of Apple's app store, Phillip Shoemaker is responsible for enforcing Apple's controversially draconian policies on iPhone code and content. So you'd think he'd have done a better job cleaning the online skeletons out of his closet.

Shoemaker added three of his own apps to the store after he began working there, Wired's Brian X. Chen is reporting, including a urination simulator named "iWiz."

The publication of the apps appears to violate Apple's own employment policy for app store employees.

Meanwhile, Shoemaker has deleted a Twitter account that, we've discovered, showed him following lots of escorts and porn stars on the microblogging service, a public indulgence in precisely the sort of content his boss Apple CEO Steve Jobs has deemed too harmful and corrosive even to touch the app store.

Working both sides of the App Store

In comments to Wired, an Apple spokesman defended Shoemaker for selling his own apps. Shoemaker was, after all, hired away from the iPhone app company he started. But the spokesman also claimed Shoemaker's apps were approved before his employment with Apple, adding, "Apple's policy allows for employees to have apps on the App Store if they're developed and published prior to their start at Apple."

Click to viewBut in fact, as Chen shows, three of Shoemaker's seven apps went onto the app store weeks after his employment began, according to dates gleaned from Shoemaker's Twitter accounts and from the iTunes profiles of his apps. In one case, a Shoemaker app was published over a month after Shoemaker started work at Apple; in two other cases, they were published nearly three weeks after his work began.

Apple's 'Freedom From Porn' Enforcer Drawn To Porn Stars and Escorts on TwitterS

Meaning the man charged with enforcing Apple policy in the app store was thrice in violation of an Apple app store policy. (Don't let Shoemaker's title of "Director, Applications Technology" fool you; as Wired and Shoemaker's tweet at left make clear, he runs Apple's app store process.)

There could be a plausible explanation for all this, though neither Apple nor Shoemaker put one forward when Wired asked: The app store is well known for its delays. But most famously, these revolve around approvals, not publishing.

Apple should have at least squared its Shoemaker statement with the dates shown publicly in its own app store, if only to ward off the perception of double dealing. After all, Apple recently had to deal with a scandal in which a midlevel Apple manager was accused, in a federal grand jury fraud and money laundering indictment, of accepting of more than $1 million in kickbacks from the iPhone and iPod accessories suppliers he oversaw.

Don't think for a second that the sort of people who develop crude body function apps are ethically apathetic; a noxious dispute between the competing flatulence apps Pull My Finger and iFart famously escalated into a court battle (Shoemaker himself is in the fart-app game with his pre-Apple offering Animal Farts). And App developers have already raised various red flags about Apple's own actions in the app store, complaining of very unclear rules, seemingly arbitrary rejections, bans on competing technology, double-standards on data collection and far-reaching content rules that have seen fashion spreads, gay literature apps, gay sightseeing apps, political cartoons, celebrity caricatures and apps with pictures of girls in bikinis banned from the store. There's no need to give them more to complain about - or any reason to suspect conflicts of interest are tilting the scales.

The embarrassing, porny Twitter account

Amid inquires from Chen, Shoemaker deleted his Twitter account, @pbshoemaker. What an odd thing to do; other than supplying Chen with Shoemaker's precise start date, the account didn't offer much ammunition for Wired's story, and in any case the magazine already had the tweets it needed in hand; Chen made a couple of them available for download from his post, adding "When informed of our story, Shoemaker purged his Twitter account cited throughout the story and updated his LinkedIn profile to remove mention of [his app company] Gray Noodle."

Apple's 'Freedom From Porn' Enforcer Drawn To Porn Stars and Escorts on TwitterS

Shoemaker's sudden shyness might have had something to do with the fact that his Twitter account was following at least 16 porn stars and escorts via their accounts on the microblogging service. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that; Shoemaker should be allowed to have fun looking at the occasional scantily clad adult entertainer or sex worker's musings about her day. It's got to break a nice break from all the technical tweets the longtime developer has to wade through. And following or otherwise ogling escorts does not mean one is visiting with escorts.

But Shoemaker might have wished he was more discreet with who he followed on Twitter given his boss Steve Jobs' avowed position on porn. His Twitter account, at a glance, did not fit well with the image Jobs has crafted for the app store as a place providing "freedom from porn." Jobs, a Disney director and reportedly the single largest shareholder at the kid-friendly media company, has slammed Google's Android platform, which competes with the iPhone, for allowing pornographic apps. "You can download porn, your kids can download porn," he famously said of Android's "porn store." He told me in an email exchange that I might understand his antipathy to porn better "when you have kids."

If you look at Shoemaker's account in Google's cache, updated just over a week ago, you can see there were two porn stars listed right there on the front page of his profile, among his 18 most recent "follows." Given all the flesh in the profile pictures, they tend to jump off the page (see image above left).

With 1,181 follows and 1,047 followers, one might argue, on the basis of just those two very visible follows, that Shoemaker perhaps had his account set up to follow all his followers back. In other words, maybe he was following porn stars involuntarily. But a look further into his follower list — Twitter orders them chronologically — shows a veritable spree of escort following activity (click to enlarge):

Apple's 'Freedom From Porn' Enforcer Drawn To Porn Stars and Escorts on TwitterS

Apple's 'Freedom From Porn' Enforcer Drawn To Porn Stars and Escorts on TwitterS

So many followers on one stretch could lead people to wonder just how many of Shoemaker's 1,182 follows were in one "adult" profession or another, and whether he has a particularly intense interest in their non-textual activities.

More to the point, it could also lead people to wonder if it's not hypocritical for Apple to repeatedly insinuate that merely allowing adults to look at porn through specialized apps on its tablet and phone-sized computers is somehow immoral, corrupting and intrinsically harmful to families — given that the very Apple employee deemed moral, incorruptible and otherwise trustworthy enough to gatekeep said apps was publicly subscribed to 16 escort and porn star Twitter feeds, at minimum.

If Shoemaker finds himself confronting questions along those lines, he might use this excuse, which we offer to him ready made (pretty much everyone's been busted for some sort of sexytime, right?): The escort and porn feeds were research. How else are you going to keep these persistent, slippery little sex kittens out of the app store, if not by learning how they think, and what their plans are? They are very crafty. And very, very, very naughty.