Using technology to protect human rights defenders

The amount of apps for mobile phones is incredible – the last batch of statistics in 2012 showed that over 700 apps were being released across all phone platforms every day.

AIPanicbuttonArguably, many are pointless. But what if one could actually save your life, or could offer you protection?

Amnesty International has sought to create such a useful app with its new Panic Button aimed at helping human rights activists facing torture, kidnap or attack.

The app – currently only available on Android devices – can be disguised as a calculator on a phone and is used to send an emergency text message to other activists so they realise one of their friends or colleagues is in danger.

Those who download the app can set-up a bank of three contacts who will receive the emergency message if the situation arises. To do this, the user only needs to repeatedly press the power button, or fake a repetitive sum by continually pressing the ‘1’ key.

There are some drawbacks to the app, notably its existence on Android devices only at this stage when much of world uses other operating systems. Another criticism is of course the usability of such an app – in a moment of genuine crisis, would a person actually have the time or inclination to send a distress signal on a phone app?

And, even if they did, there is the danger in many societies where human rights are impeded that the transmission can be intercepted.

However, it is a bold step and Amnesty must be praised for their innovation. And, ultimately, the more tools in the box to fight torture and assure the safety of human rights defenders, the better.

Click this link to read more about the app (redirects to an external site)

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