New App to fight attack, kidnap and torture—now available for download

Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger First hours after arrest crucial window of opportunity to mobilize action The press of a button sends an immediate SMS distress signal to activists’ own networks Fast to activate and disguised on the phone Tried and tested with more than 100 users in 17 countries 

A new Panic Button app, to give human rights defenders urgent help from their own networks when facing attack, kidnapping, or torture is now available for public download on Google Playstore, announced Amnesty International. 

The ‘Panic Button’ mobile app for Android, developed by Amnesty International in collaboration with iilab, activists, tech experts and volunteers from around the world, transforms a user’s smart phone into a secret alarm which can be activated rapidly in the event of an emergency, alerting fellow activists to the danger their colleague faces so that they can get help faster. 

 “The aim of the Panic Button is to increase protection for activists around the world who face the ever present threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture,” said Tanya O’Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International. 

“We have long known that the first hours after somebody’s arrest are the crucial window of opportunity for a network to make a difference to their colleague’s release—whether it be flooding the police station with calls, arranging a protest, or mobilizing lawyers and organizations like Amnesty International for a campaign of international pressure.” 

“By introducing technology to the fight for human rights, this app updates the power of writing a letter for the 21st century.” 

Panic Button has been made available for global download in four languages after three months of private beta testing with more than 100 users from Amnesty International’s networks in more than 17 countries. 

During the testing phase, activists and journalists expressed that the tool can make a positive difference in mitigating the daily risk of their day-to-day work. 

“It is really scary to find out that an activist has been detained for months without anyone knowing anything about them or working to get them released. We hope Panic Button will ensure future cases of unlawful detention in Sudan do not go undetected allowing us to mobilize to help more people”, said Ibrahim Alsafi, a human rights activist in Sudan who has been involved in the testing and training of the app. 

“This is an essential tool for activists, human rights defenders, students and lawyers. Everyone who might face danger in their work needs to have Panic Button on his or her phone.”   

Notes to editors 

For more information or to request an interview please contact: [email protected] / +44(0)2030365941 

How the app works 

·        The alarm is triggered by rapidly pressing the phone’s power button, after which an SMS message is sent to three pre-entered contacts chosen by the user, alerting them of the distress situation. 

·        When the phone detects GPS , this message includes a map link showing the user’s coordinates and the user can pre-set the frequency of regular location updates so their network is updated every few minutes when active. 

·        In a bid to prevent or delay an aggressor from discovering and disarming the alerts, the app has a disguise screen and pin number to mask the app settings. 

·        Amnesty International has developed a training methodology and online security advice to help users use Panic Button safely, effectively and in full knowledge of potential security risks. 

·        Panic Button is in a public Beta phase and there may be technical bugs on some mobile devices. Users can help to fix any of these problems by reporting a bug here or by contacting us directly for support. 

·        The app is an open-source project meaning that individuals around the world can contribute to making improvements to the code and help to identify and fix any security vulnerabilities that emerge. 

How the app was developed 

·        After receiving £100,000 from the Google Global Impact Awards last year, Amnesty International began testing the app with human rights defenders in three regions across the globe. 

·        The project was born out of an open innovation process with design company IDEO, where Amnesty International invited designers, human rights activists and supporters around the world to design new approaches to protect individuals facing unlawful detention. Since then, hundreds of human rights activists, developers and designers have collaborated with Amnesty International to turn the concept into reality. 

·        Collaborating partners include iilab, Front Line Defenders, the engine room, ThoughtWorks, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, the Mesoamerican Initiate of Women Human Rights Defenders, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’ Rights in the Philippines and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates. 

·        Panic Button was developed with seed funding from the Ford Foundation. 

Where to download the app 

·        You can download the app here