How a Rogue Developer Got Apple to Approve a Drone Strike App

After nearly two years and a ton of media attention, you can now download an iPhone app that alerts you every time a drone strike kills someone abroad. It only took the app developer six tries and several different names to get Apple to approve it.

The app is called Metadata+ and, officially, it provides "real-time updates on national security." Those are Apple-safe words. Originally, the app was called Drone+ then Drones+ and even Dronestream, but Apple wanted nothing to do with it. The app is dead simple, too. It pulls data about the from the UK's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, plots the location on a map, and sends a push notification when the attack takes place.

So what's Apple's problem? Well, the App Store folks provided a few different reasons that involve both the design and the content of the app. At first, Apple told the app's developer Josh Begley, that that app was "not useful or entertaining enough," and then there was an issue with a corporate logo. Finally, last August, Apple admitted, "We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable." So the news is objectionable?

So how did Begley sneak it by this time? FastCo Exist explains:

[Begley] says he was told by an Apple employee that even though his app only took data from reports in the news, drones fell into a category of "concepts" that the company decides not to advance. If he broadened his scope, Begley would be good to go.

When Begley submitted a version of his app without any data (called "Ephemeral"), the software was accepted. He followed up with a similar version called Metadata+, then filled in all the historical drone strike information once the app went live. It's a drone strike app, whether Apple likes it or not.

So the takeaway, it seems, is that if Apple finds the content of your app objectionable, just submit the app without the content and add it later. Now, the clock is ticking to see how long it takes Apple to remove the app from its store. [FastCo Exist]

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