Samaritans Charity Pulls its Controversial Twitter App
Ryan Simmons / 3 years ago
Counselling charity Samaritans has pulled a suicide prevention Twitter app that caused a great deal of controversy.
The ‘Radar’ app was intended to scan tweets for certain keywords that may have indicated someone was feeling suicidal. The system would then automatically send those users an email offering them links to support and advice.The charity claimed that the service was scanning over 1 million Twitter accounts for phrases like “depressed,” “help me” and “hate myself”.
The system prompted a wave of criticism, with some suggesting that the service was a breach of people’s privacy and that it could also be exploited by Twitter trolls. The charity pointed out that the tweets scanned were already in the public domain. What they didn’t talk very much about however, was the fact that all the tweets scanned (without the user’s permission) were being indexed and pushed to a third-party server for processing. It also didn’t help that all that data was being stored on those servers, irrespective of whether a user deleted a scanned tweet.
Samaritans executive Joe Fearns responded to the controversy, by apologising “to anyone who has inadvertently been caused any distress” by “information and opinion circulating about Samaritans Radar,” appearing to direct some of the negative attention away from the system itself. The charity has suggested that ‘Radar’ may well be re-launched in the future, with Fearns detailing that they are “testing a number of potential changes and adaptations to the app to make it as safe and effective as possible.”