Search Blog Posts

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Now You Can Track U.S. Drone Killings on an App

We haven't yet become aware of any personal defensive "pocket rocket" missiles being created to shoot down these predator killers, but we're sure there will be.
Robinson Meyer The Atlantic February 11, 2014

On Monday, the new publication First Look reported that electronically obtained metadata controls who, how, and when U.S. drones kill abroad. Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill write that that kind of information doesn’t only determine who is killed: Metadata on phone SIM cards determines how victims of the strikes are found.

“The drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata,” they write, paraphrasing an ex-drone operator.

Now, a new iPhone app lets you explore the consequences of that phenomenon. Named—fittingly—Metadata+, it catalogues and maps drone killings by the United States and is now free and available for download

The app was made by data artist and web developer Josh Begley. Its two views variously mirror iOS’s Messages interface, displaying the date, location, and victims of each killing; it also shows a map of U.S. drone strikes across the Middle East and Somalia.

Most strikingly, Metadata+ will send users an in-app notification whenever there’s a new strike.

The app, in other words, places an experience foreign to many Americans in a context they’re familiar with: their smartphone. It isn’t the first project do so. Begley’s own @dronestream Twitter account, followed by more than 27,000 people, tweets about every new strike, interrupting their friends’ chatter with more violent news. And London-based artist James Bridle has led two similar efforts, operating an Instagram feed that posts satellite imagery of every strike’s location and painting the shadow of drones on the ground in major Western cities.

Each project tries to transplant the anxiety of those who live below drones to the everyday experience of those very distant from them.

I wrote to Begley to ask about the design decisions behind the app. I was interested in how he balanced the obtrusive—the violent content of the app—and the unobtrusive—its reliance on iOS design. He wrote back: Continue reading->