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Imagine Uber but for ordering a private security force directly to your location.
According to leaked emails obtained by Vice, Citizen, the neighborhood watch app where people can report local incidents, is testing that exact concept out.
The internal emails detail a product described as “security response.” Citizens users would be able to request a private security team straight to their doorstep. That team would be made up of individuals from a third party contracted by Citizen.
Sources familiar with the service, including former Citizen employees, told Vice that the company had been “actively testing the program” in order to improve the speediness of the response times and the communication between Citizen and the third-party security firm.
Citizen has apparently been testing the in-app service with its workers. Emails cite one example where an employee ordered a security guard who showed up within 10 minutes to escort them to their destination.
In addition to providing these security forces to its own users, Citizen has also pitched this service to the Los Angeles Police Department. The leaked emails, according to Vice, claim the LAPD responded positively to it and even referred to it as a “game changer.”
Global private security contractor Securitas is one of the companies specifically mentioned in the emails as providing the security forces for Citizen users. A search of the company pulls up some concerning recent stories involving their employees. One story details how one Securitas security employee punched and choked an 11-year-old girl who was allegedly shoplifting in a clothing store. The incident resulted in the company agreeing last week to change its training for security personnel.
Another security company involved with the Citizen service, Los Angeles Professional Security, has recently been seen driving a Citizen-branded vehicle in LA, according to Motherboard.
“LAPS offers a personal rapid response service that we are trialing internally with employees as a small test with one vehicle in Los Angeles,” said a Citizen spokesperson in an email to Mashable. “For example, if someone would like an escort to walk them home late at night, they can request this service.”
“We have spoken with various partners in designing this pilot project,” the spokesperson continued.
A former Citizen employee described the service to Vice as a “privatized secondary emergency response network.” Another source told the outlet that they were shocked to hear the service, which was long discussed within the company, actually made it “this far.”
At the moment, Citizen is a mobile app where users can report recent crimes or accidents and log the location where it occurred on a map. It even allows users to livestream incidents, such as building fires, live as they happen.
However, one of Citizen’s major problems is how wrong it often is. Being that it relies on user-generated content, nothing stops people from embellishing incidents or outright making them up. Screenshots of reports from the Citizen app often make the rounds on local neighborhood hangouts, such as local Facebook Groups, but they contain false information, which creates an uproar within the communities before anyone has bothered to verify whether the incident actually even occurred.
Citizen disputes the characterization that the service is prone to false information and embellishments. In an email to Mashable, the company pointed out that “Citizen alerts are based on 911 communications that are monitored and screened by Citizen analysts. The alerts are then combined with live stories, real-time updates, user-generated content and personal safety features so that users can stay informed and engaged, safe and protected.”
The statement goes on to point out that Citizen employs analysts, some with law enforcement or media backgrounds, to review publicly available info from “first responder agencies” to discern what represents a “legitimate safety concern.” There’s also a team of moderators looking at user-generated content on a 24/7 basis, and a content policy that places restrictions on what it’s OK and not OK to share.
None of the company’s response to this article addressed what I personally experienced recently in a Facebook Group for people who live in my neighborhood in Queens, New York. Someone posted details of an attempted child abduction seen on Citizen, which sent people into rapid-fire fear mongering before moderators interjected. It turned out in the end that the entire incident was false.
But Citizen’s accuracy isn’t the only concern here. There was an event last weekend where Citizen’s CEO personally had the company offer a US$30,000 bounty to users if they found the alleged arsonist behind wildfires in Southern California.
While this may seem like a bad idea simply due to the possibility of some user deciding to take justice into their own hands, things turned out even worse: Citizen had identified the wrong person in their manhunt.
It’s really not hard to imagine numerous dangers arising from a service that essentially sends a private police force out to deal with a situation simply because a Citizen user calls on them. The possibilities for this to be abused are almost endless.
Citizen told Mashable it had no further comments on the service described in the leaked emails.
UPDATE: May 22, 2021, 1:26 p.m. EDT Updated with Citizen’s response.
ที่มา : Mashable