The Stack Archive

Migrant-saving app called out as fake, wins at Cannes

Tue 21 Jun 2016


Grey Singapore’s ‘I Sea’ app, created to allow users to identify and flag refugees in crisis at sea, has been removed from the App Store after it was tested and reported as bogus. It has also been criticized by the primary client as ineffectual, yet the I Sea app was awarded the Bronze Lion at the Cannes Lions advertising awards show last night.

I Sea was created by Grey for Good, the philanthropic division of advertising company Grey Singapore. It intended to crowd-source the search for migrants in crisis at sea by providing satellite images of the Mediterranean in real time to smartphone users. Each user would be assigned a plot of the ocean, and if they spotted refugees in trouble on their plot users could then send an alert to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

Yesterday, the app was tested by technology security experts including SecuriTay, whose Twitter account @SwiftOnSecurity has 131,000 followers. Several parties weighed in on Swift’s Twitter account yesterday, noting that while it was nighttime in the Mediterranean, the ‘real-time’ imagery shown on the I Sea app had daytime footage. The ‘live’ footage was found to be identical to the on-boarding screenshot; and several users had been assigned the same longitude and latitude coordinates rather than the unique plot they were supposed to have. Even the live weather reading on the app was found to have been falsified. They also questioned the app’s requirement to submit the user’s passport number in order to submit an alert. Amid widespread criticism, the I Sea app was removed from the App Store yesterday.

i-seaWhile Grey for Good acknowledged on its website that the app was in testing mode, and that real-time satellite images were not available during testing, they said that the flag-and-report functions were working and that it was ‘proud of what it had achieved so far.’  A spokesperson for the client said, ‘The Migrant Offshore Aid Network did not develop the app with Grey for Good nor do we feel that there [are] any advantages to having the public scan old sat images for potential disasters that in reality unfold in seconds.’ They went on to say that the client supported the launch of the app in concept only, adding, ‘Saving lives is a serious business, with serious consequences for not maintaining the highest standards of professionalism.’

A full summary of the evidence against the viability of the I Sea app was posted along with links to the actual code behind the app, which seem to indicate that linking to actual real-time satellite imagery would be prohibitively complicated and expensive. Whether the app is working as intended or not, it was awarded the prestigious Bronze Lion at Cannes last night. Per Pedersen, chair of the creative council of Grey, said last month that ‘Award shows play a positive role in pushing us to try out new things and I believe they help us step out from the everyday. We refuse to be slaves to awards shows, but try to use them when building our creative reputation and culture.’


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