Thousands of people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year. Some estimates suggest that more than 2,500 people have lost their lives trying to make the perilous journey across to Europe. That's why many people took notice when a cellphone app claiming it could save lives appeared on the scene.
However, the app has since been pulled from Apple's App Store after reports that it could be fake. Developers and tech experts who examined the app found several issues. For example, the real-time satellite images it purported to provide were actually static and unchanging images, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The app was developed by the Singapore-based ad company Grey Digital and proclaimed that it had the ability to locate refugees lost at sea using real-time satellite footage. Users would then be able to spot boats that were lost or needed help, it said, and that information would be sent to a Malta-based organization that would provide "professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea."
A noted Twitter user, "SecuriTay," has been identified as one of the main developers who uncovered problems with the app. After they raised the red flags on Twitter, other developers caught on and began to question the way the app worked:
Grey Digital has responded with a statement saying that the app is still in testing mode and acknowledging that "during this testing period, the satellite images available are not in real-time." As the Guardian's Alex Hern pointed out, however, although it is common for companies "to demonstrate proof-of-concept creations that are several steps away from actually working," the fact that Grey Digital presented the I Sea app as though it was finished is rare.