App Turns Power Button Into Panic Button for Activists at Risk

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The Android app — which can be disguised as a calculator on the mobile phone — can send an SMS distress signal to other activists so that they can mobilise action within the first few hours. The secret alarm is designed to protect activists who frequently put themselves at risk to help others, facing arrest, attack, kidnap or torture.

People who download the app (which needs a minimum of Android 2.3.3) can set up three pre-warned contacts to receive alerts in an emergency — ideally people who can practically assist the individual. In advance of going somewhere where he or she might be in danger, the individual can write a message that will be triggered in an emergency. Individuals are encouraged to use code words and phrases that only his or her contacts will understand. To trigger the message, the user needs only to rapidly press the phone’s power button — five times in five seconds until they feel a vibration: this will send the pre-written message along with the sender’s GPS location. Alternatively, the user can type the number 1 repeatedly on the mock calculator.


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