The crime monitoring app Citizen is now launching its own emergency service that allows access to agents who can call an emergency number or monitor potentially dangerous situations. Protect, which costs $ 19.99 a month, is based on a beta program launched earlier this year. It is part of a larger – and sometimes controversial – expansion effort at startup that has built a crime mapping system into a live broadcast platform by experimenting with private security services.
Citizen Protect is basically a private security helpline that takes advantage of smartphone features such as location tracking. When subscribers open the Citizen app, they can press a button and call “Protect Agent” via video, audio, or text message. Agents are meant to talk to subscribers through dangerous scenarios and help callers navigate to a safe public place when needed. They can call the emergency number or designated emergency contact and provide location information from the caller’s phone. And they can create a public Citizen event with the subscriber’s consent and alert nearby Citizen users of the events.
In iOS, subscribers can also enable automatic security mode. This sets the app to listen for an “emergency signal” such as a shout – after which it asks if the user wants to call a representative and connects automatically if it doesn’t respond. Users can also quickly shake their phones to connect to an agent. (The citizen says he will be adding these options to Android soon.) If users are in trouble but can’t directly ask for help, agents can still listen through the phone’s microphone and call the emergency number if they deem it necessary.
The citizen’s main service is a crime monitoring program which sends reports of nearby safety incidents based on user tips, police scanner information, and other sources. It has also been moved to live video, recruitment of paid streams covers reports of missing children, house fires and crime scenes. Citizen CEO Andrew Frame said in a statement that Protect represents a development from a “one-way system” to sending security alerts to a “two-way system where users can ask for help from citizens.”
The citizen may have an incentive to make calls public in a way that 911 operators do not. Earlier this year, the company launched OnAir, a live broadcast system that combines crime tracking with local reporting. In the high-profile ignition current, Citizen OnAir streamers prompted users to hunt an innocent man on suspicion of arson. Nonetheless, publicity could be beneficial to some subscribers: Citizen promotes the ability to spread the word about missing people and pets, for example, by crediting the app with 20 rescues since its 2017 release. And it promises that agents will never create a citizen declaration without permission.
The citizen has tested patrol cars rented from private security clothing, but at least for now, Protect does not replace the police or 911. Its agents do not send special private forces, and they are purely remote operators. Also, some features don’t seem to be a huge upgrade to current smartphone options. Apple Emergency SOS can unobtrusively call an emergency number and share location information alongside an emergency call, and includes additional features such as automatic fall detection.
With a call Limit, Citizen advertised Protect in high-risk situations that are not yet emergencies. The company claims that the presence of agents has helped eliminate disputes in the beta phase and provide examples, such as someone having a heated dispute with an unstable roommate. It says some Black beta users have asked agents to see if they have been stopped by law enforcement based on Citizen’s existence ability to monitor the police during demonstrations.
The value of Protect depends on its promise of prompt and expert support in the approximately 60 U.S. cities where it operates. The citizen says Limit that Protect operators are hired directly, not as a subcontractor through another security service, and that its staff has comfortably supported approximately 100,000 beta users. It declined to disclose how many agents it employs, and has not provided detailed information on how often most Protect beta users call them.
A Fast company questioned article The capabilities of the Protect agents during the beta period, and note that the validity of the job list was “low”. On the contrary, Citizen characterizes its agents as “highly trained security professionals” who sometimes have experience with social workers, police dispatchers, and emergencies. It says, among other things, that employees will complete a four-week Public Safety Telecommunicator certification course that includes training on bias and mental health.
Critics have blamed the citizen arouses fear and paranoia so it can sell peace of mind through services like Protect. One former employee said Vice that “The whole idea of Protect is that you can convince people to pay for a product once you’ve gotten them to the highest anxiety you can get them into.” The citizen has disputed the claim, saying it only reveals “relevant, real-time information” about the human environment.
However, Protect can provide support for people with ongoing health problems or threats, such as persecution. Unlike a 911 call, a Protect call does not directly call the police to send violence. And there is no sharing system that could reinforce unreliable or biased accusations like a social network, so an agent could theoretically resolve situations without involving anyone else. Although Protect is described as an app feature, its value probably depends on the people a citizen can hire – and how Citizen tells them to answer user calls.