New iPhone app maps Israeli settlements

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

LISA MULLINS: One group opposed to continued Israeli settlement activity is using a new tool to get its message out. The tool is an iPhone application called �facts on the ground.� It allows users to see where settlements are on an interactive map. The app, and companion website, were developed by Americans for Peace Now. That's a group affiliated with the Israeli advocacy organization called Peace Now. Spencer Ackerman has written about this on Wired magazine's Danger Room blog. Could you give us an overview first Spencer of what this website and iPhone app does? How does it work and what does it show us?

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Sure. In a very easy to use format, you see a map of the West Bank and the first thing that will pop up are a bunch of blue boxes that represent settlement blocs. And if you [INDISCERNIBLE] on any one of them, you'll get a quick pop up of when that settlement was founded, some brief facts about its population and the rate of its expansion. And you can use different layers of mapping to learn more about any particular settlement.

MULLINS: Well, we spoke to Americans for Peace Now earlier today and they told us that they've been compiling information about these settlements for many years, but this is the first time that a lot of people will have easy access to all of their data. So, who do you see using this new technology?

ACKERMAN: I would think anyone who wants to play DIY settlement monitor. It could be useful for anyone who's actually worked in the international community in NGOs, monitoring settlements. Or people who are simply opposed to the occupation of the West Bank and want to have quick facts available for a debating session or anything like that.

MULLINS: Although, you probably notice this as well, Spencer, when you go on-line to the site or if you pick up an iPhone and look at the map of the West Bank, from a totally zoomed out perspective, it can be a little misleading because you mention the blue boxes, which represent different settlements, and there are a lot of them. They look like the entire West Bank is filled with settlements. But when you zoom in, as the technology allows you to do, you get a different view and you see that there are indeed many, many, many settlements, but there is space between them. And they're not taking up the entire West Bank. Is that a technical problem that could interfere with the facts on the ground?

ACKERMAN: It's definitely an application that wears its politics openly. The boxes aren't to scale, so you don't get a sense of what the differences in size are between particular settlement blocs and any others or some smaller outposts until you actively zoom in or you click on the outpost option. So, definitely you're getting the view of the settlements that this anti-occupation organization wants you to get.

MULLINS: So, how often are you running into this app-based activism in terms of the innovation, I wonder if you think it's kind of a game changer and I wonder how popular you think it's going to be?

ACKERMAN: I wouldn't quite go so far, but it's definitely the sort of technology that activists groups would probably want to take a look at. It will be interesting to see whether increasingly politicized applications become more of a fixture in Apple's app store on the Android market and if so, what impact that has on making what's now a kind of [INDISCERNIBLE] internet experience, more of a kind of [INDISCERNIBLE] and heated one from an activist's perspective.

MULLINS: Thank you, Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for's Danger Room Blog, speaking to us about the new �facts on the ground� website and iPhone application that maps Israeli settlements. Nice to talk to you, Spencer.

ACKERMAN: Thanks very much.