back to article Sea of outrage after 'migrant-spotting app' turned out to be bogus

The developers behind a much-hyped, headline-grabbing humanitarian smartphone app are in damage control mode after their software was found to be junk. The iSea app for iOS was billed as a way for users to help rescue refugees adrift at sea by combing over satellite imagery of oceans on their smartphones and flagging any shots …

  1. HCV

    "ALL BUT useless?"

    I suppose because it actually shows the weather for Misrata, Libya?

    1. Mark 85

      Re: "ALL BUT useless?"

      No.. no... very useful. The company behind this is an advertising agency. It's useful to them.

  2. JLV

    Yes, yes, we know about journalistic deadlines, but...

    Didn't anyone check it out before singing its praises? Are we getting to be that gullible and lemming-like? No one a fan of Hans Christian Andersen anymore?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Didn't anyone check it out before singing its praises?"

      Dead on! The media fuelled iAppDroid craze is brainless... Its no wonder so Crapware / Malware sneaks in...

    2. HCV

      Well, as Tay pointed out, you have to know things about stuff to instantly recognize how ludicrous the very premise of this app is. And to be able to prove it, you *really* need skills beyond that of basic journalism -- or at least be smart enough to ask someone who does have the skills.

      We're in a world where people are *shocked* to discover that yes, a jet airliner can disappear without there being satellite videos that will show exactly where it was for every second of its journey. And people want to feel good about being able to help from their armchairs (slacktivism). If wearing pink cures breast cancer, can't we solve the refugee disaster by swiping right? Don't we *deserve* the opportunity to know that downloading an app will fix everything??

      Well, someone else downloading an app, really. I'd download it myself, but it looks kind of boring.

      1. Brenda McViking

        There are crowd-sourcing sites like which really do help with problems that computers still aren't very good at such as image recognition (mapping solar flares, deforestation, ocean floor analysis). They can simply rely on lots of amateurs pre-ranking images for expert analysis, which helps in putting those needles you're looking for into a much smaller haystack.

        Yes, there are plenty of ludicrous premises - real time refugee monitoring of the high seas isn't a clever one. But there are plenty of actually useful applications for this sort of technology.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we are proud of what we have achieved so far"

    I can't for the life of me imagine what that might be.

    1. Midnight

      You're all talking about the app, you all know the name of the developer, and... well... before being blacklisted forever, Grey Goo was nominated for several awards.

      As long as you believe that there's no such thing as bad publicity, this whole experience has been awesome for everybody involved.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Well, they won an advertising award, that's something right?

      (Amusingly, pretty much every search for the app is bringing up results saying it's a scam now)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anybody daft enough to install this...

    ...deserves to be had.

    It always had to be a con, because there was no money in it. Now, had the developers thought a bit harder they could have taken the "market-maker" model of Uber, or Airbnb, and come up with Fugee, a new platform to link those with the wish to travel unsafely (plus the means to pay) to people smugglers.

    Lucrative, flexible, and socially useful. What more could any developer want? And there's plenty of opportunity for value added extras like paying your people smuggler to put all your real identity documents in a weighted bag destined for Davy Jones' locker (5 USD), or for a badly photocopied guide to bluffing your way through the EU asylum systems (10 USD), higher rates for the less unseaworthy vessels (basic plus 500 USD per head). Or even for your people smuggler to send a postcard to your next of kin if the worst happens (10 USD).

    So I suppose, what this news story shows is not the problem with gullible users, but in fact, that the problem with most developers: No sense of commerce or meeting people's needs.

    1. JLV

      Re: Anybody daft enough to install this...

      No need to be all cynical and snippy. There have been pretty useful dev-led solutions in things like refugee re-unification and disaster relief. A lot of open source stuff is not primarily about money though it may have self-promotion as an incentive.

      If you insist on dismissing all open source as junk, which is your prerogative, that primarily leaves you with one consumer operating system these days that is not open source based in any form ;-) Hint: it is not universally loved by its users.

      Not sure how well this app would have worked out in practice, but there was nothing wrong per se with wanting to help. Something similar was attempted with Steve Fossett, IIRC.

      What was wrong was a) the team misrepresenting (rather pointlessly) the current state of the app, instead of stating it was a prototype. And b) whatever the team's error of judgment, all sorts of journalists in prestigious publications not doing their job correctly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anybody daft enough to install this...

      ~ Blame for the media should be first on your hit-list imho... No one asked a single difficult question before helping to hype this???

      ~ Its not like iAppDroid crapware / Malware hasn't been fairly pervasive in recent months...

      ~ Yet no one in Medialand is asking very necessary questions... ~ Fuck the media! They hang users out to dry, then just walk away!

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Anybody daft enough to install this...

        ~ Yet no one in Medialand is asking very necessary questions... ~ Fuck the media! They hang users out to dry, then just walk away!

        Why should they? Once upon a time, journalists/reporters did ask tough questions. But then the advertisers started waving the money sword at the media. So... happy news, happy articles, and no tough, embarrassing questions.

  5. DiViDeD

    Call me cinical if you like

    But I have to wonder how many people downloaded the app in the hope they could use it to call in the gunships and attack helicopters.

    1. Oengus

      Re: Call me cinical if you like

      I was thinking Surface to Surface missiles but I suppose gunships and attack helicopters are a good alternative...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Call me cinical if you like

        as the Farage flotilla heads out to sea...

  6. disgruntled yank

    I don't understand

    What does it mean "to support the app launch in concept only"?

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: I don't understand

      Ad agency: "we're thinking of building an app that would help people rescue refugees"

      MOAS: "that sounds like a good idea"

      Press release follows. Easy.

      I see you're a yank, if you were in the UK you would see this sort of selective quoting and misrepresentation being currently played out on electoral posters all over Britain whenever the facts are deemed inconvenient.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: I don't understand

        I see you're a yank, if you were in the UK you would see this sort of selective quoting and misrepresentation being currently played out on electoral posters all over Britain whenever the facts are deemed inconvenient.

        I hate to say it, but we in the States are seeing the same level of bullcrap. Otherwise the two front runners for President wouldn't be the frontrunners.

  7. Valerion

    Even if it was "working", what use would it be?

    It kind of assumes every boat is a migrant boat. Rather than just, say, a boat.

    Scrambling the navy every time someone spots a boat wouldn't be particularly efficient.

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