Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to have to cancel your mobile drone tracking plans for Labor Day weekend. It was a really fun plan, I know. Pull out the lawn chairs, find a sunny spot in the grass — beer in one hand, iPhone in the other — and open up your new Drones+ app. When the CIA sends one of their Predators or Reapers or whatever into mountains of Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia to drop some bombs on some terrorists, you get a push notification and a text message-like report on where the drone hit, how many it killed, etc. You can even look at a Google Map of the attacked area. But alas, Apple has rejected Drones+ from the App Store for the third time. Apparently, keeping tabs on our nation’s soldiers and spies is a “crude and objectionable” thing to do.
Josh Begley, the app’s developer, just doesn’t get it. The first time Apple rejected Drones+, it bluntly cited some functionality concerns. It was “not useful” enough. The second time was more vague, something to do with a corporate logo in the app. The third time, though, Apple just cut to the chase. “We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” the company said in an email to the New York-based developer.
That was hardly Begley’s intention, though, and he doesn’t really know what to do about it. "If the content is found to be objectionable, and it’s literally just an aggregation of news, I don’t know how to change that.” He added, “I thought reaching into the pockets of U.S. smartphone users and annoying them into drone-consciousness could be an interesting way to surface the conversation a bit more.”
It’s not news that Apple is a little bit fast and loose when it comes to rejecting apps. Sometimes, the reasons are sound. Take the Baby Shaker app for instance. Most people would agree that an app that makes shaking a baby until it dies into a game is crude and objectionable. (Apple actually initially approved Baby Shaker.) Less clear cut is the Obama Trampoline app that lets you bounce various politicians on a trampoline in the Oval Office. The pantsless Bill Clinton evidently raised some flags. Sometimes, perfectly acceptable apps go awry, like the Beauty Meter. The rate-my-face (and body and clothes) app was doing just fine until people started uploading child porn.
But there’s no baby violence, naked politicians or kiddie porn in Drones+. It’s literally a news feed from the publicly available database of the U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism but with some added features. If the content’s the problem, there must be some political underpinning to Apple’s decision. Unless you think about it from a 30,000-foot perspective. At the end of the day, this is an app that sends you push alerts when people get killed. It’s a smart and noble idea to try and push these drone deaths in front of the public eye, but Apple is a little bit sensitive to these kinds of topics. They don’t even condone zombie violence! If you want to use an iPhone app to actually fly a drone, though, that’s totally fine.