Every day we wake up to open the newspaper and read some new crime, be it rape, murder or mass killings. These articles are then followed up in the consecutive days in terms of the appropriate action taken or lack of one. All these happenings make one worry about one’s own safety as well as the safety of our loved ones.
We often wonder what we can do to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if we are at the wrong place at the right time what can we do to help in the situation And just like almost any other problem we are facing technology is progressing towards solving this problem too.
Till now technology has been able to answer the need for food, shelter, and friends at the click of a button. But less attention is being paid to the issue of personal safety. Citizen (The App) wants to change that and has raised over $12m from investors, including Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms. But the reality of crime and protecting people from harm is far more complex than catering to other basic needs. It is not as simple as booking a hotel bed or ordering dim sum.
The Citizen app, currently only available in San Francisco and New York, aims to answer our primal need to feel safe. During the Halloween terrorist attack in New York last year, a school principal was notified by Citizen that an incident had taken place nearby long before it made the local news. She used the information to keep the school buses from leaving the premises, away from danger.
In the past, Citizen Notifications have prompted users to evacuate burning buildings, deter school buses from departing a school during a nearby terrorist attack, or even rescue their neighbor’s baby locked in a hot car.
You must be wondering how does this app work such miracles well the answer is easy.
Real-time Alerts: These Location-based notifications help you avoid potentially dangerous situations. Joining the Citizen Safety network will give you instant access to information about crimes near you. The Citizen Technology will send you real-time push notifications to alert you of crimes that are close.
But if you think this is how the application started then you are in for a surprise. This app is a sequel to the app named Vigilante. The controversial crime reporting app was kicked out of the App Store in November shortly after its release because Apple believed it encouraged private citizens to engage in, well…vigilantism.
Having considered its previous complication. The new Citizen app dials down the potential for direct involvement from its users. Citizen instead suggests that users live stream crimes and incidents for others to see and comment on. It also pops up a window to offer “stronger guidance” to “never approach a crime scene, interfere with an incident, or get in the way of police,” as the app’s description states.
The app does, allow users to see incidents as red dots on a map, which is something that could make it a tool for avoiding particular areas.
Having mentioned that, we need to understand that the such a sensitive application comes with its own set of concerns and hesitations. One of the main concern is that asking users to live stream incidents could lead to other issues, too. The identity of a crucial witness could be revealed or Citizen could be used to share an incredibly humiliating video of someone being assaulted,” or “make someone appear like they’re guilty when they may not be.
Citizen has not made its plan for generating revenue public yet. This raises a whole range of other ethical issues. Surely, tech companies should work with law enforcement and non-profits to get more information in citizens’ hands, without trying to make money from it.
An app based on such a concept is definitely the need of the hour but the safety and security glitches of this app make it a difficult and highly sensitive project to be easily implemented. Let’s hope the App gives remarkable results in New York as well as San Fransisco and is further expanded to national as well as international level in the coming years