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Apple Rejects App That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes

• Christina Bonnington and Spencer Ackerman
 

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. 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. 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.

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 strikes.

iOS developers have a strict set of guidelines that must be adhered to in order to gain acceptance into the App Store. Apps are judged on technical, content and design criteria. As Apple does not comment on the app reviews process, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly why an app got rejected. But Apple’s team of reviewers is small, sifts through up to 10,000 apps a week, and necessarily errs on the side of caution when it comes to potentially questionable apps.

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