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Apple's new rule for the iPhone app store: "no skin!"

When Apple pulled a selection of apps featuring scantily clad women and other sexy themes from the app store late last week, it wasn't quite clear whether there was a new policy in place, or if the wanton deletion of apps bare flesh was just the crazy whim of some employee. Well, a couple of days and a whopping 5,000(!!!) removed apps later, we have an answer.

When I say "we," I don't mean developers and app store customers generally, I mean one particular developer who asked Apple what was going on and got a detailed response. And when I say "an answer," I mean a list of policies that were articulated by an Apple representative to that one developer, not a new list of rules published in the official developer documentation.

Bearing all that in mind, here's what we know. Apple gave the developers of Wobble -- that totally tasteful app that makes any part of a photo jiggle when you shake your phone -- the following list of guidelines about sexually provocative content in the app store (the commentary in parentheses is from the developers):

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)

2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn't ask about Ice Skating tights for men)

3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)

4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs

5. No sexual connotations or innuendo: boobs, babes, booty, sex – all banned

6. Nothing that can be sexually arousing!! (I doubt many people could get aroused with the pic above but those puritanical guys at Apple must get off on pretty mundane things to find Wobble "overtly sexual!)

7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but ...)

If these are Apple's real guidelines, they're asking the employees who review apps for approval to make some calls that even the US Supreme Court has historically had trouble with. "Sexually arousing" to whom? And we know the rule can't literally be "no skin," so how much is too much? These rules raise as many questions as they answer, and I hope Apple drops this campaign against sex as quickly as it dropped some of the other unwritten rules of the app store.

Meanwhile, as Paul Carr pointed out in his brilliant TechCrunch non-column this week, who needs 99 cent bikini apps when your iPhone comes with Safari? A browser lets you see plenty of men and women without the swimsuits, absolutely free.

Tags: app store, apple, AppStore, banned, bikini, iphone, policy, rules, sex, sexy, wobble