Human rights defenders (HRDs) working in some of the most repressive and dangerous countries in the world can face unknown and unexpected threats that can come at any time.
That is why Amnesty International, in partnership with iilab, The Engine Room, and Front Line Defenders, have launched a new smart phone app which can turn an Android phone into an emergency alarm.
“Panic Button”, which is currently in the beta – or testing – phase, allows HRDs and other activists to use their phone as a discreet alarm device, rapidly alerting selected contacts to an emergency.
With the very real treat of individuals being attacked, arrested, or disappeared with no warning, HRDs could benefit hugely from such a tool.
The official “Panic Button” website is up and running, and it is hoped that HRDs and others will download and test the app so that it can be further improved.
While surveillance of mobile phones is commonly employed by the authorities in many countries to monitor the plans and movements of defenders and activists, “Panic Button” utilises a screen disguise feature and requires a pin number to access the application. In this way it can remain hidden from anyone trying to monitor a defender’s mobile.
The user can trigger an emergency alarm from their mobile by repeatedly pressing the phone’s power button, which automatically sends an SMS message to three selected contacts chosen by the user, alerting the contacts to the user’s distress.
The emergency message can also include a map which shows the user’s coordinates, which can be set up by using a GPS function.
The user can set the app to send regular location updates to keep their network aware of their location, should they suddenly become incommunicado. For more information or to take part in testing the app, please visit the website.