App Reviews

Drone Killing App? It’s on iOS

After rejecting it 5 times earlier, Apple has finally allowed an app that catalogs and maps drone killings by the United States. It also sends users a notification whenever there is a new drone strike. The app, known as “Metadata+”, was developed by American Josh Begley.

Is It Supposed To Be Gruesome or Informative?
Similar to how the Vietnam war was first brought into living rooms through the television and media from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s, the app, first named “Drones+,” brings the reality of the War on Terror to our Smartphone. Initially, it was rejected for being “not useful or entertaining enough,” and it “did not appeal to a broad enough audience.” The second time it was rejected for using Google Maps images without the “associated Google branding.” The third rejection came for having content that “audiences would find objectionable.”

Later on, he changed the name to “Dronestream” and then submitted the app for approval twice, being rejected both times. However, after the fifth rejection Begley got a call from an employee from Apple saying that if he would “broaden [his] topic, then [they would] take another look.” Subsequently, Begley renamed the app to “Metadata+” and described the app as providing “real-time updates on national security.” His app received approval on February 3, 2014.

The app describes drone attacks in a very short paragraph, usually giving a name, sometimes their age and what that person was doing during the time of the attack and the app gets its information from the United Kingdom-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

When asked by Robinson Meyer, an associate editor at The Atlantic, about the content of the app Begley replied that using the visual interface of Apple, which most people use to see pictures or follow a friend’s updates, to present an image of people who have been killed in these attacks, might “nudge [everyone] to learn a little more about the contours of covert war.” He also said that as much as he was interested in “apps that are ephemeral,” he was also interested in apps that “teach [him] something.”

The app’s name itself is also a reference to the National Security Agency’s collecting of data from mobile phones and how the United States military is supplied with this data to carry out its operations, as reported by American political journalist Glenn Greenwald.

This Makes Us Ponder…
What exactly is the line between having an app that is offensive and an app that is right for the audience? What did Apple see that made it change their decision after rejecting the app 5 times? How far should app developers go in for creativity and which information shouldn’t be compromised? Well, for now it seems app developers need to woo in Apple and Android stores into believing that their app isn’t objectionable to find a place in the app store.

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