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    Jul 08, 2016

    Refugee-locating app creators return award amid criticism

    A SINGAPORE-BASED firm is returning the Bronze Lion it won at the Cannes festival for a refugee-locating app that some critics have deemed fake.

    Digital advertising agency Grey Group, whose philanthropic arm Grey for Good developed the controversial I SEA app, has stood by its product, accusing "unnamed bloggers" of "unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks".

    But it said on Wednesday that it was returning the award "so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity".

    There were apparent problems with the app even before it won the Lion in Promo & Activation on June 20.

    That same day, it was pulled from Apple's App Store for breaching guideline 1.1.6 which bans "false information and features".

    The app claimed to be able to scan the Mediterranean Sea for migrant ships, and purportedly employed real-time satellite data that allows users to spot, tag and report a vessel in distress, so that the authorities can send help.

    But developers who tested the app said I SEA "pretends" to distribute satellite footage of different parts of the sea to the app's users but instead uses the same image.

    When the controversy erupted, Grey Group's chief communications officer Owen Dougherty told The Straits Times that the app was real but was in a testing stage.

    In a statement to AdWeek, Grey Group said it was returning the Bronze Lion, saying there was "no need for scam projects" given that it won 90 Cannes Lions this year.

    "However, given the unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers, we are putting an end to this and returning the Bronze Lion so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity."