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It has been reported by Japanese tech media outlets Impress and CNet Japan that Apple has removed top downloaded app Sekai Camera and several other applications from the iTunes App Store.

Sekai Camera, created by TonchiDot,  was one of the first AR (Augmented Reality) apps available for the iPhone and quickly gained popularity not only in Japan, but abroad as well.  The application makes us of Place Engine, a service similar to Skyhook Wireless that uses known wi-fi hotspot signals to enhance GPS location readings.  Yahoo!地図 published by Yahoo Japan and a number of applications released by Koozyt, another application developer using PlaceEngine have also been pulled.

TonchiDot CEO Takahito Iguchi has responded by confirming the removal was due to the Apple App review process and that an update to the software will be released soon.

At this time it is unclear if PlaceEngine is indeed the reason that these apps were pulled, and why the system may be a problem for Apple. We will continue to monitor and post updates as they are made public.
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Update 6.3.10 11:00: Techcruch has received a message from Tonchidot regarding the removal. Including the excerpt below.

Update with Tonchidot’s response (edited):

We have also received sympathetic words from many people across the
world, and really appreciate everyone’s support.

We always strive to comply with Apple’s policies, and will fix and
resubmit a version that satisfies their current requirements.  We do
not know what the exact reason is for their recent decision, but
Koozyt, among others, have been extremely helpful in helping us
identify the potential cause.

No worries, will will have a new and better version back up on App
Store very soon, so please look forward to it ! :)

Go Koozyt! Go Sekai Camera!

Update 5.3.10 06:30:

More information on this removal is coming in from around the globe.  Serkan Toto has covered the story for TechCruch and mentions this article in the Register noting similar apps around the world have also been pulled.

The iPhone Blog speculates that the mass rejection has to do with enhanced scrutiny over use of private API’s in Apple’s review process.  Not a new policy, but sudden enforcement of existing developer agreements. Please note that there has been no official statement by Apple at this point.

Update 4.3.10 21:20: Added Yahoo!地図 app removal.

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