In August 2012, Google created an application for counting desertions from the Syrian Arab Army, as attested by an email from Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, to State Secretary Hillary Clinton and her advisors William Burns, Jacob Sullivan and Alec Ross [1].

Later on, Google sold this application to the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera, which received a prize for the best technical innovation in on-line Media. The prize was awarded by a group founded by the British communications agency Drum Network, of which Google is a shareholder.

However, the results of the application were a disappointment – desertions from the Syrian Arab Army never rose above 25,000 - while, taking into account the violence of the war and the number of casualties, the number of absent without leave rose to 130,000 - which is why the application was withdrawn by Al-Jazeera.

Pete Kimberley

[1Hillary Clinton e-mail.