Apple again rejects app that tracks US drone attacks

By DEBORAH NETBURN | Los Angeles Times | Published: August 30, 2012

If you want to know how many people are dying at the hands of U.S. drone strikes, the Drones+ app is for you.

It sends a text alert to your iPhone whenever the media reports casualties from a drone strike. It also compiles media reports about the strike, and shows you a Google map with locations of other strikes in the area marked by red pushpins.

If that sounds interesting to you, we've got bad news. You can't have it.

Apple has rejected the app from its App Store three times this summer.

"We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store guidelines," the company wrote in an email to Josh Begley, a graduate student at New York University who created the app.

In an interview with The Times, Begley said he understands where Apple is coming from.

"I totally understand it from Apple's perspective," he said. "They don't want to have anything that could be considered controversial by anyone. I get that, and I understand that."

The data in Begley's app come from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which uses reporting from government, military and intelligence officials as well as credible media and academic sources to create a database of drone attacks.

I asked Begley if he would consider building Drones+ as an Android App. The Google Play store is generally known to be less restrictive than the App Store.

Begley said he'd think about it -- especially if someone paid him to do it -- but that he never really expected anyone to download the app in the first place.

"The point is that we choose to get notified about lots of stuff on our own, like Twitter mentions, but even if we had access to this information about these drone attacks, would we choose to use it?" he said.