Apple rejects app that tracks U.S. drone strikes

“It seemed like a simple enough idea for an iPhone app: Send users a pop-up notice whenever a flying robots kills someone in one of America’s many undeclared wars,” Christina Bonnington and Spencer Ackerman report for Wired. “But Apple keeps blocking the Drones+ program from its App Store — and therefore, from iPhones everywhere. The Cupertino company says the content is ‘objectionable and crude,’ according to Apple’s latest rejection letter.”

“It’s the third time in a month that Apple has turned Drones+ away, says Josh Begley, the program’s New York-based developer,” Bonnington and Ackerman report. “The company’s reasons for keeping the program out of the App Store keep shifting. First, Apple called the bare-bones application that aggregates news of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia “not useful.” Then there was an issue with hiding a corporate logo. And now, there’s this crude content problem.”

Bonnington and Ackerman report, “Begley is confused. Drones+ doesn’t present grisly images of corpses left in the aftermath of the strikes. It just tells users when a strike has occurred, going off a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which compiles media accounts of the strike.”

“Of course, the App Store houses innumerable applications for news publications and aggregators that deliver much of the same content provided by Begley’s app,” Bonnington and Ackerman report. “‘I’m kind of back at the drawing board about what exactly I’m supposed to do,’ Begley said. The basic idea was to see if he could get App Store denizens a bit more interested in the U.S.’ secretive, robotic wars, with information on those wars popping up on their phones the same way an Instagram comment or retweet might. Instead, Begley’s thinking about whether he’d have a better shot making the same point in the Android Market.”

Read more in the full article here.

More also via The Bureau of Investigative Journalism here.

MacDailyNews Take: As if 547 fart apps aren’t “objectionable and crude.”

You know what’s really “objectionable and crude,” Apple? Trying to hide reality because it might “offend” someone.

Regardless of your position on U.S. drone strikes, censorship is not the appropriate answer; it rarely is.

[UPDATE: 9:00pm EDT: We removed the reference to Mr. Cook from our Take as, upon further reflection, we felt it was unfair as he may not even be aware of this particular App Store rejection. Yet. We hope that someone higher up on the food chain than the college interns Apple has randomly approving/rejecting apps will soon be taking a look at why this one was really rejected.]


  1. Um.. MDN We have to talk…

    I am going to make this short to save your feelings.
    I am leaving you. You need help with your “anger” problem.
    I am too close to you to be of any help.
    I am starting to think I am merely an enabler for your “Bea Arthur” scale ranting. I cannot help you any longer.
    I will always remember our time together and the pain will fade in time.

  2. I was with you MDN until you blamed it on Cook. He isn’t the one that accepts the apps he has people for that. It was most likely someone working at Apple that has an “off” position in accordance to the drone strikes (off being the opposite of my view, which is WTF USA).

  3. Oh please.. All these developers want is free publicity and an Apple rejection is a great way to to get it these day.

    The app has little to no purpose other than generating scandal. It should be rejected on those grounds alone, just like many other apps with no purpose.

    Whoever wants to find this information can obviously go to the website to find it. Why not sign up for a twitter feed there?

    1. it’s about double standards. This kind of censorship is big-brother type shit. I expect people are petitioning Apple right now and the app will be available shortly.

        1. Can you explain to me why American don’t have the right to know who we are bombing? It is not classified information since it’s already been done. Just because you want to keep your head buried in the sand and “trust” your government like some kind of religious belief, the rest of us may just want to know what is really going on and have the facts.

          Do you see something offensive about that !?

    2. If we’re going to reject apps based on the amount of scandal generated, where do you draw the line? Is Apple entitled to reject the CNN app or the Fox News app because you see pictures of dead and mutilated bodies as a result of the war on terror, or highway accidents or whatever is deemed newsworthy for the day.

      If Fox News reports on the Anders Breveik case is Apple entitled to pull the app because bullets are being sprayed and bodies piled up? Or the Empire State shooter story should be suppressed because God forbid somebody died?

  4. Actually, I’m fully with MDN on this one. I use my phone for mail, twitter, games, etc? Why all of a sudden can’t I have an app I’m interested in that simply provides public information in a convenient manner?

    See no evil I guess. Apple does need to get dirty sometimes. Can’t all be eye candy.

    Didn’t the military get approval for a bunch of iPad 2s anyway? Apple happily sold them.

      1. Exactly! The only reason the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was top secret is because the OUR government wanted to keep it secret from us. The Vietnamese already knew they didn’t do what they were being blamed of doing, but we needed an excuse to get us into the war, so we lied to our own people and caused 58,000 of our own soldiers to die over a lie.

        Many times “Top Secret” means “Top Secret” from us.

        The enemy doesn’t need an app to tell them they’ve been bombed. It’s on their radio and all over their newspapers. We are the ones that need to know.

        If Pakistan was flying drones over the US and dropping bombs on the Americans that they thought were “bad guys” (like Bush or Obama) and killing innocent bystanders along the way, we would call that an act of war! –but when we do it, it is called “doing the right thing”.

        Last time I checked parents in Pakistan love their children just as much as we love ours, and when their kids die they cry just like we do.

        ….yet we kill them like bees as we see fit. Yeah, I have a problem with that. Who has the power to make the decision of life and death? An elected official? A hired gun? Do you want government officials in Washington to decide who should live and who should die? Is that what you elected them to do for you?

        Would you want a few government officials in a meeting room, with a folder in their hands to decide if YOUR son should die, and then kill him?

        If they said it was justified, would you be OK with that? How about if it was your neighbors kid? Would that be better? How about if was some kid in Pakistan?

        Oh, well that’s different. All of a sudden we now have confidence that these murders are being committed by good people for all the right reasons. All the facts are in the folder. Everything in the folder must be true, and nothing can go wrong.

        Sometimes our elected officials just need to kill the right people to get the job done, and that is why we elected them. We elected them because we believed that they would always know exactly who to kill for us.

        The App is a great idea. It should also automatically forward a letter from you to your congressman so you can thank him for taking the initiative to kill for you, and another copy of the email should go to the parents of victim so you can say “I support the murder of your son and here’s why:” and the app can automatically attach the folder for you.

        Don’t forget, they KILLED those people for us. Do you get it? They KILLED them. Shouldn’t we at least show some graditude?

        It’s all good. If you support our drone strikes, you will LOVE these Version 2 enhancements!

  5. I think national security trumps an app that has no use for the average rubbernecking, dramatic headline seeking, hit whores who would buy this app. MDN you’re wrong on this one.

    1. OH, but MDN thought they could take another cheap shot at Tim Cook and didn’t want to miss out on that one. It’s their mission in life lately. Sad, but appearing to be true as the A.D. Steve days unfold.

      1. P.S. I do admit a few criticisms I agree with, but this incident being blamed on Tim, just shows that MDN’s motives are taking the form of a Witch Hunt. Please take a deep breath and “Think before you click” on the send button MDN.

        1. MDN did not blame Tim Cook. The Take read as if they wanted him to take responsibility for this latest act of random App Store censorship.

          Ultimately, he is responsible for everything that happens at Apple Inc. The buck stops at Cook. That’s why he gets the big money.

          1. No? Did you read the update?
            “UPATE: 9:00pm EDT: We removed the reference to Mr. Cook from our Take as, upon further reflection, we felt it was unfair as he may not even be aware of this particular App Store rejection…]”

            1. Yes, I read the update.

              I also read the original Take.

              MDN removed one sentence: “Grow a pair, Mr. Cook.”

              That was not blaming Cook, it was urging him to take quick and decisive action. MDN should’ve left it in.

            2. Just seems like lately there is a bit more negativity than Cook deserves. He hasn’t been perfect, but he was handed one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

  6. It’s unfortunate that Apple is afraid to let developers know the REAL reason they reject their app.

    It may be the easy way out for you, but it is damn frustrating for the developers cupping their hands on the window trying to get a peek inside. (BTW – I’m not a developer)

  7. I had an app that was rejected for a ridiculous reason (basically they said I couldn’t do something, where dozens if not hundreds of apps already did it). I appealed, and was rejected again. I then wrote to Tim Cook directly. Never got an email back from him but within 48 hours, I got a call from a big wig in app approval, and he said, “oh, your app is fine. We didn’t really mean to reject it after all.” I hope that as this story circulates, Mr. Cook will get wind of it, and the same thing will happen to Begley’s app.

  8. There are two sides to every story and this is probably about publicity for the app which will no doubt hit the store soon. MDN’s comments are ironically anti-Apple since Jobs died and I’m losing interest, sad really.

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