When you launch an app designed to alert you the moment a crime is reported in your immediate vicinity, you’re asking for trouble if you name it Vigilante, as app developer Sp0n quickly discovered.
The app is designed to allow people to report crimes, and for anyone close by to receive an instant alert. Less than a week after it went live in New York, Apple has pulled it from the App Store …
The company never explicitly said that the app was designed to allow citizens to take the law into their own hands, but its blog post announcing the app came pretty close.
My personal belief is that, rather than having a small, elite force of highly trained government agents here to protect us all, we’re much better off having average and ordinary citizens approaching this problem as a group and seeing what we can do. If we all do our part, I think we’ll be in a much better space. The tools to change the world are in everybody’s hands. How we use them is not just up to me, it’s up to all of us.
The Guardian reports that concerns had been expressed about the potential of the app to encourage violent responses, especially in light of the potential for misidentification of suspects.
Sam Gregory, programme director of Witness, which trains and supports activists to document human rights violations, [said that] he is concerned about the framing of the app, down to the name and promotional materials. “Vigilantism is a very different idea to being an ethical witness to what’s happening,” he said.
“These types of tools tend to have racial bias and only focus on very visible incidents. Things you can see in the street, as we saw with Nextdoor and Sketchfactor,” he said. In this way, the app encourages the public incrimination of innocent-until-proven-guilty people at the scene.
Apple doesn’t comment on the reasons individual apps are removed from the store, but does have a policy of banning apps that could place people at risk of physical harm.
Sp0n says that it is ‘confident’ that the app will be restored to the App Store.
The team is working with Apple to resolve the issue and they are confident the app will be made available in the near future. Vigilante will introduce an Android version of the app in the upcoming weeks with plans to expand in additional cities later this year.
The promotional video for the app (below) does state that users should not interfere, just capture video evidence and submit further information, but the app’s name clearly suggests otherwise – and the video itself shows someone directly intervening.
Via Business Insider