Crowdsourcing App to Search for Migrant Boats Lost at Sea Almost Certainly a Scam

I Sea is an iOS app (I won’t link to it) that has been recently reported by a variety of news outlets, from Newsweek to Wired. It allows its users to help find migrant boats that are currently lost at sea, and report them. It supposedly does this by providing realtime satellite imagery and weather information of various parts of the sea to its users, who can then look through the imagery and flag potential sightings.

Except it doesn’t, and it’s almost certainly fake.

@SwiftOnSecurity spent some time trying the app over the weekend and was convinced it’s fake. A few investigative Twitter users were quickly able to find enough information to show that the app is, in all likelihood, completely scam. I’ve Storify’d the relevant tweets from last night, which I won’t repost here, so you can read through the full discussion.

Should this be true (and I believe it is), its true purpose, or motive, remains to be seen. The app may have been an immoral ploy to obtain personal information (the app apparently requires the user’s passport number), a concept app that is being deliberately misleading, or something else entirely. The website has no contact information, Terms of Service, or Privacy agreement of any kind1. The only external links its website has is a claim to be related to MOAS, a migrant aid station, and all of the recent press the app has received.

Whatever the reason was to release an app like this, capitalizing on the current migrant crisis happening in Europe is sickening. Given that the app and its website has several clear warning signs, it’s shocking that so many reporters were duped. Did these reporters even try the app, or did they just rewrite the press release?

Update: Apple has pulled the app from the App Store.

  1. It’s deeply concerning that so many people would’ve willingly provided their passport information without checking to see how this data is handled first. My guess is that people, in their willingness to help, were wiling to simply provide whatever information they needed to start.