This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.
Yesterday I spoke about a new app which has been created by Samaritans which monitors the timelines of people you follow and alerts you if there are trigger words or phrases which could indicate suicidal thoughts or feelings.
I spoke about the privacy concerns regarding what is essentially an ‘over the shoulder’ application. Today users are asking for action to me taken and for the service to be shut down for good. The idea behind the app is certainly a noble one, if someone you are following writes something such as, “help me” or “hate myself” then you will receive an email from Samaritans nudging you to take an extra look.
The tweets are public anyway so the service is simply highlighting something you may have missed…right?
Wrong, according to critics and fellow bloggers who have been discussing the app for the past few days. The app raises major privacy concerns but as well as that many users see it to be tailor made for trolls and bullies to prey on people who are vulnerable and at a low point.
Users are not notified that someone is monitoring your tweets if they download the app, for all I know there could be someone using the app to monitor my feed now but I would be none the wiser. Samaritans have responded to the criticism by allowing people the opportunity to opt out of the service, however to do so you need to follow the Samaritans on Twitter and then send them a DM.
Now an information policy activist named Adrian Short is asking Twitter to take direct action themselves and put a stop to the app being used. On Sunday he created a Change.org petition calling on the firm to block the app from accessing its data.
Samaritans radar can only work with access to Twitter’s API and if the social network denies access then the app would cease to function anymore and would be shut down with immediate effect. “I no longer feel safe talking about my feelings and experiences on Twitter because of this app,” wrote one of the signatories – a sentiment expressed by several others.
Salimah Lalji, who works for the Samaritans, says that while the charity is aware of the petition, and is “trying to listen and take on any feedback,” there has also been a positive response to the app. More than 3,000 people have activated Samaritans Radar, and it is now tracking over 1.64 million Twitter accounts.
About The Author
Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis, he is also a proud father of his bearded dragon, Lola. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here.