Whenever someone is the victim of suicide, family and friends often wonder if there were warning signs that could have helped them prevent such a tragedy. One of the first places people check are their social networks. Did they write an ominous status on Facebook? Have they been tweeting sad song lyrics for the past few months? Well one organization thought that something more, something preventative could be done.
U.K. suicide prevention charity Samaritans launched a mobile app in October that notified its users when someone on their timeline tweeted something that could be considered “suicidal.” The Samaritans Radar app would send an email to its users whenever certain problematic key words were used such as “help me” or “hate myself.” The problem is, most of the time no one even knew they were being monitored. Soon, the app was monitoring close to 2 million Twitter accounts.
For example, if I opened an account on Samaritans Radar app, they would collect the data of all of the people I follow on Twitter without their consent, including several of my fellow PRowlers.
Less than a week after the launch of the app, Samaritans offered an option for people to opt out of being monitored. However, this solution proved to have little impact on protesters of the app most notably Adrian Short. It didn’t take long for Short to create and gather signatures on a Change.gov petition urging Twitter to shut down the app. Today, Friday November 14th, Samaritans has deactivated all accounts, shut down the application, and issued a statement.
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