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Apple bans ‘drone strike’ app

31 August 2012

An iOS app developed to heighten awareness of the US drone war has been rejected by Apple for the third time – just three weeks after the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned that a proposed new US bill “would have broad consequences for press freedom and the public’s right to know.”

The EFF is concerned about provisions in the annual Intelligence Authorization Act that are designed to stop leaks of classified information to news reporters. EFF specifically mentions the new book by Daniel Klaidman, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency and its discussion on drone strikes. Yet because information is “hidden behind giant walls of secrecy, there is no oversight or accountability, and the public has no say in the decision as to whether the country should be engaging in them at all.”

Josh Begley, a New Yorker, sought to lift that veil of secrecy, not by leaking classified information but by making access to published information more effective. His app draws its source data from the freely available database compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a not-for-profit organization based at City University in London.

The app, Drones+ (there’s a brief Vimeo video here) simply lists information about drone strikes and provides a map that shows where they occurred. It is purely factual and contains no graphics beyond the map. Nevertheless, it has now been rejected by Apple’s reviewers three times in the last month. The first rejection was apparently because it isn’t “useful or entertaining enough.” The second rejection had an issue over a logo. And the latest rejection is because Apple finds the content “objectionable and crude.”

Buster Heine in Cult of Mac comments, “We don’t see anything objectionable about the app, but apparently Apple does. What’s also concerning is that it took three rejections before Begley found out that Apple just didn’t like the content.”

Whether the timing of these rejections and the Senate deliberations on preventing leaks is anything other than co-incidence will probably never be known. Nevertheless, critics of Apple’s restrictive approach to its walled garden have long claimed that it presents a danger to free speech. Drones+ would seem to confirm that.

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Industry News  •  Wireless and Mobile Security

 

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