A made-in-France iPhone app called “Jewish or Not Jewish?” is under fire for stigmatizing Jews.
French Jewish and human rights groups argue that the application, which came out in early August and allows users to guess whether public personalities are Jewish or not, violates French law forbidding the collection of personal data such as a person’s religion or ethnicity without permission from the individual.
The law was largely founded on the principle that Nazi occupiers used similar methods to round up Jews during World War II and send them to death camps.
But Johann Levy, the creator of the application, said his intentions were to show “pride” in being Jewish.
“I did it out of healthy intentions. I am Jewish myself,” Levy said Tuesday on French radio Europe 1. “The goal was just to bring a feeling of pride to Jews when they see that such-and-such a businessman or celebrity is also Jewish.”
One of the so-called Jews on the application was French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to the French daily Le Figaro. Sarkozy is in fact Catholic; his maternal grandfather was born Jewish and converted to Catholicism. Levy said he found all his information concerning the more than 3,500 individuals on the Internet and argued the data was already public.
But French law says Levy’s actions could technically cost him five years in prison and about $412,000 in fines, and SOS Racism announced it would file an official complaint for “an illicit” database by the end of this week.
Levy said that “if there is a legal problem,” the application would be removed. The Apple Store also could face legal responsibility for approving the sale of the application for about $1 But SOS Racism said it would only pursue the store if it refused to remove the program from sale.
The Jewish umbrella group CRIF and France’s Jewish Student Union were among those who denounced the program.