Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Amerícas: The Proliferation of Mobile Devices, Failure of Governments to Manage Life-Safety An Impending Risk

According to EFE, close to 40,000 Argentines report crimes or get news about criminal activities close to their homes by means of a mobile application launched a month ago in a country where insecurity is seen as one of the main problems, its creators said.

“CityCop has garnered some 130,000 users worldwide just three months after its launch. About 40,000 are in Argentina,” software developer Federico Cella, head of the project, told EFE, adding that the country with the most users is Uruguay, where the app was invented, while Brazil is third.

Once someone downloads the app, the new “citizen cop” can issue reports and share photos with the rest of the community about robberies, harassment and violence, vandalism and drug dealing, among other crimes, or pinpoint suspicious activities.

Others on the network can see that report and interact with the person who posted it, in order to learn more details and exchange information.

“What is most interesting is that users can establish areas of interest, such as where they live, where they work, where the kids go to school...and then, even though the app is turned off, an alert is projected if something sinister is going on in those areas,” Cella said.

COMMENT: Although it is beneficial that “CityCop” has prompted the creative design of a useful application, I fully endorse that any activity governing life-safety be placed firmly under the control of a local, state or federal agency that has the fiscal resources to not only manage such applications but to prevent such applications from being compromised by criminal elements.

I predict that unless “CityCop” is sold to a government agency in the near term, imaginative and creative criminals will think of a way to compromise and "hack-into" the application.

Another factor for government agencies to consider is that the proliferation of mobile devices throughout the world, fail to consider the potentiality of mobile systems “going down” during a natural disaster or a regional crisis such as the events that occurred on September 11, 2001.

The reports allow recurring patterns to be detected, he said, such as seeing “on the map every day at the same time that women driving their cars alone are assaulted at certain stoplights.”

For that reason, “CityCop” providers are thinking about publishing infograms at the end of the month detailing the most repeated crimes and the areas where they are committed.

“Many incidents are not reported using the emergency phone number 911, so that no one ever knows about half of what is going on,” said the software developer, who noted that as a result of using the app, many people take a different route when driving through the city.

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