The European refugee crisis is still ongoing, and there have been a number of efforts to try and help the people making their way across Europe in search of sanctuary. The I Sea app, however, might not be such an effort.
The app was released last week, and claims to help refugees by filming live footage of the Mediterranean and dividing it into small areas, then sending footage of those small areas to individual users who can scan the waters for refugees who might be in trouble at sea. Only problem is, it doesn’t actually show real-time imagery. Instead, it just shows images of a single section of the Mediterranean.
The app was created by an ad agency in Singapore called Grey Group, which is part of a larger advertising giant called WPP. Now, however, it has been pulled from the App Store for violating Apple’s rule that apps not provide “false information and features.”
“The I Sea app is real and was designed by Grey for Good in Singapore, our philanthropic communications arm, that has a great reputation working for many worthy causes around the world,” said Grey Group in an email to Digital Trends. “We said it was in a testing stage and they have some satellite issues to work out. For some reason, a developer unknown to us has pushed the story that it is fake or a hoax. Grey Group is one of the most creatively awarded global agencies around and we adhere to the highest ethical standards.”
While advertising agencies will often demonstrate proof of concepts that don’t actually work just yet, this particular app was presented as fully functional and working. In fact, a story about the app appeared in Wired, in which Grey Group’s creative director Low Jun Jek implied that the app was up and running.
Of course, we might never have learned that the app wasn’t functional if it weren’t for a group of developers, led by Twitter user SecuriTay, who tore down the app to try and see how it all worked. They encountered plenty of red flags — for example, a login page was coded to always say “invalid username / password!” and the app always showed the same coordinates to users. There’s also the fact that the app was created by an ad agency rather than an app-development company.
Grey Group did not respond to a request for comment, however we will update this story if that changes.