Amnesty International has long been an organisation at the forefront of protecting people from violence and oppression by their government, and now they are taking this into the Digital Age. The well-known NGO has released today a new app called ‘Panic Button’ which could potentially save users from kidnap and arbitrary detention.
Built in collaboration with developer iilab, the app exists primarily as a way for at risk groups to send out a covert ‘alarm’ if they are in danger. On installing the app, a user will pick 3 emergency secret contacts, then the app goes into a dormant mode. When user feels like they are heading into a dangerous areas, they can initiate the active mode of the app. Once active, the a user can hit the power button on their smartphone several times in succession in order to send the three emergency contacts an alert message that contains the GPS coordinates of the user.
Amnesty International explains that this kind of immediate alert could be integral in keeping people out of jail:
“We have long known that the first hours after somebody’s arrest are the crucial window of opportunity for a network to make a difference to their colleague’s release—whether it be flooding the police station with calls, arranging a protest, or mobilizing lawyers and organizations like Amnesty International for a campaign of international pressure.”
While this functionality is well and good, Amnesty International is also aware that one of the first things that happen to an activist upon arrest, is that their phone is taken away and searched. Knowing that the Panic Button up could anger police or others belligerents further, the NGO has thoughtfully included a ‘disguised’ mode for the app to run in, which makes it much less visible on the phone.
The app has gone through several months of beta testing in at least 17 countries and is now available for Android phones on the Google Play Store. Initially it is being offered in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
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