A recently banned app that rewards you with flying emojis if you livestream a crime scene is back. Apple’s App Store banned the app called Vigilante last November, because it encouraged users to approach crime scenes “as a group” and — well, the app was called “Vigilante,” so draw your own conclusions.
This episode of Black Mirror just got a sequel. The app is back under the new name Citizen (available for iOS or Android), and it just expanded to San Francisco after rolling out in New York in March. Citizen purports to “helps you stay safe by providing instant notifications of nearby emergencies and reported incidents.” It also offers “real-time notifications when crime or fires are reported nearby so you can avoid dangerous situations.”
Citizen might be a very helpful tool for helping you steer clear of a dangerous crime scene. Except that it has a livestream button, and encourages you to broadcast the dangerous scene on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. (A company representative insists to SF Weekly this option is only available after viewing a warning against broadcasting dangerous scenes or interfering with emergency responders.)
The above video, which does not in any way resemble the actual user experience of the Citizen app, depicts a Law & Order/SUV crime porn scene in which an abducted four-year-old gets saved thanks to people livestreaming on Citizen and lasers shooting out of Sutro Tower.
In reality, the Citizen app shows you a map of San Francisco and places a little red dot on any crime or fire scene about which there are active 911 police and fire calls. (This morning’s incidents included “Man Spat on Bus Passenger” and “Man Waving Knife at McDonald’s Customers”.) It provides updates to the situation, as they’ve been announced on the police and fire calls.
It’s basically ScanSF data, but curated by the Citizen team and archived in a standalone app, with Facebook and Twitter integration so you can livestream the alleged crime and get your friends to add flying emojis to your user-generated video.
This could be handy if you’re obsessed with monitoring crime, if you desperately need real-time updates and you prefer a pretty app to a police scanner broadcast, or if you prefer posting to Facebook Live instead of doing the right thing and calling 911. Livestreaming a crime in progress, though, certainly comes with risks. “The critical point here is you don’t want someone who was a potential witness becoming a potential victim,” retired NYPD detective Sal Lifrieri told NBC New York.
Of course, Citizen requires access to your location, your camera, and your microphone. Additional features offer to post your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook accounts, and it might be a good idea to check your social media account settings and app permissions if you use those social features..
So go ahead and download Citizen if you’re fascinated with real-time crime information. But remember, the point of this app is not to spy on criminals — the point of this app is to spy on you.