The terrible, awful, rubbish #samaritansradar app has been suspended. I was going to blog about the app, which set out to monitor and collect people’s tweets, then ‘alert’ someone who follows them, and who subscribes to the app, if they seem to indicate a ‘cry for help’ or a suicidal mood. The person being monitored has not consented to this kind of surveillance and intrusion. But after over a week of campaigning, on twitter, via blogs, emails to the samaritans, and a change.org petition set up by Adrian Short, the samaritans announced the app was being pulled, for the time being at least. So I don’t really need to add my voice to the many dissenters.
Another reason I’m not going to write at length about this failed social media experiment, that an organisation claiming to be concerned with vulnerable people, seemed to be conducting *on* vulnerable people with no care for the consequences, is that there are already some incredible pieces of writing on the subject. So here are some of the blogposts I’ve read on Samaritans Radar that have impressed me. One of the many positives that have come out of this debacle for me is a reminder that blogging is not dead!
In addition to his post announcing samaritans radar has been suspended, and his eloquent tweet coda to it:
There are four equally good posts by Paul Bernal on the app, which consider important issues of public/private tensions on social media, privacy in more general, the necessary autonomy of people who call on the Samaritans and other agencies for support, and more.
Lesley Pinder has written about being the ‘target audience’ for the app and clearly articulated why she would not sign up to it. Becca Peters of third sector thinking blog also had some interesting things to say about why those who subscribed to the app might not want to or probably should’t use it.
Purple Persuasion imagined if the app was a real-life ‘intervention’ and the horror of that scenario.
At Information rights and wrongs blog , Jon Baines considers some of the privacy concerns raised by Samaritans Radar, and rebuts the Samaritans’ claim that they are not the ‘data controller’ of the material collected by the app and so not liable under data protection law.
Some twitter users tested the app and blogged about their findings. Queer crip showed how clunky, simplistic and often inaccurate the app is in finding words and phrases the Samaritans think indicate someone might need help/support. Michelle Brook also does tests on the app and reports back at her Quantumplations blog. Michelle is currently analysing the survey Samaritans have created to ask people for feedback on the app, and will write up her findings soon.
I will leave the final word to a Samaritans volunteer, who like many of us, thought an organisation known for ‘listening’ was not doing so over the radar app: