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Apple drones reject American drone-strike tracker app

Is it useful to know when robot flyers kill someone?

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Apple has repeatedly rejected an app which pushes notifications onto iPhones every time an American robot flyer makes a strike.

The information is public, slurped from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the app takes its lead from The Guardian, which bundled the same functionality into a story on the subject of death by remote control, but an app which just pops up a notification with every strike is apparently offensive, or useless, or just not entertaining enough for the Apple censors.

All three reasons have been supplied to New York developer Josh Begley, who told Wired that Apple first complained his app, Drones+, wasn't useful, but most recently pointed of the objectionable content as the reason for its rejection.

The app doesn’t show dismembered corpses, only text details of the strike and a map showing where the hit occurred, and while some might find America's use of robot killers objectionable one could surely apply the same restriction to any of the news aggregators out there, or the news services themselves who routinely report the most objectionable of events from around the world.

Begley admits he's trying to make a point – by pushing notifications out he wants to remind users what's happening on the other side of the world – though one imagines Drones+ would only appeal to limp-wristed liberals who feel guilty enough already or red-blooded Republicans who'll be raising a toast every time their alert goes off.

It's not the first time Apple's censorship has gone political. The company blocked a political cartoon app at one point, and pulled apps showing drink-drive checkpoints not to mention comedy seal clubbing. An application which offered to help gay people find members of the opposite sex arousing disappeared after a flurry of complaints, and the Chinese iTunes store not-so-mysteriously lacks apps relaying the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

The app which went Quack was rejected around the world for being pointless, which isn't political but seems worthy of mention anyway.

Apple makes its own rules, and reserves the right to make arbitrary decisions without explanation or justification, and Apple customers don't seem to mind. The majority of decisions are probably quite sensible, and Apple has been known to change its mind in the face of public opinion, but each time serves as a reminder of Cupertino's overreaching control. ®

Bootnote

From the Reg killer robot desk:

The Western media are strangely obsessed with "drone" strikes for some reason (nobody in the military and intelligence communities uses the term "drone"). The Graun and their pals at the BOIJ reckon there may have been as many as 400 of these since the first armed CIA Predators went to work back in 2002, and consider this to be a big deal.

The US Air Force makes rather more comprehensive data on airstrikes during the Wars on Stuff openly available, and we can see (pdf) from them that many, many times more airstrikes (around 5,000 every year) have been carried out in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (ISAF in Afghanistan). Heavy bombing formerly took place in Iraq too.

Then we should reflect that many non-"drone" strikes use much heavier ordnance than the Hellfire missiles typically launched by Predator and Reaper UASs, and as a result more people are killed. (Example: In just one incident a US B-1 strategic bomber hammered the Afghan village of Farah with no less than 8,500lbs - more than 4 tons - of bombs, equivalent to approximately 85 Hellfire strikes that would have required a fleet of Reapers or Predators to deliver. F-18 fighters had previously dropped more bombs and strafed the area with cannon fire. This will all have been recorded as a single airstrike. As many as 140 civilians were killed in just that one incident, as compared to a possible 852 in the entire decade-long "drone" campaign.)

What do we learn here? That manned aircraft operated by the Western armed forces have killed and are killing anywhere from 10 to 100 times as many people as the "drone" fleet of the CIA. App developers and journos take note.

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