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Controversial anti-suicide app ditched by Samaritans

This news post is about 7 years old
 

Samaritans bins controversial anti-suicide app over data protection fears

Anti-suicide charity the Samaritans has scrapped its controversial Twitter app designed to trace potential suicidal tweets.

The charity launched Samaritans Radar just a few weeks ago but quickly became embroiled in data protection and legal issues around its use.

Designed with an algorithm to identify words and phrases from at-risk users, the app came in from criticism from within and without the mental health community for its lack of sensitivity, with many saying it made them feel more vulnerable.

The charity's policy director, Joe Ferns, said: "We have made the decision to suspend the application at this time for further consideration.

"Our primary concern is for anyone who may be struggling to cope, including those with mental health conditions.

"We are very aware that the range of information and opinion, which is circulating about Samaritans Radar, has created concern and worry for some people and would like to apologise to anyone who has inadvertently been caused any distress.

"This was not our intention."

We...apologise to anyone who has inadvertently been caused any distress - Joe Ferns

Users who signed up for the scheme received an email alert if someone they followed tweeted statements such as tired of being alone", "hate myself", "depressed", "help me" and "need someone to talk to".

Many howver found the level of anyliss as prying with some threatening the charity with legal action.

And data protection experts questioned the way the app monitored people.

Jon Baines, chairman of the National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers, said he believed the app "had been released without adequate assessment of its impact on people's privacy".

Despite the suspension of the app, Ferns defended the charity's track record in experimenting with new technology.

"Samaritans has a history of innovating to meet the challenges of providing a safe, relevant and effective service to all those we exist to support and we will continue to do this and learn from the work we do.

"We will use the time we have now to engage in further dialogue with a range of partners, including in the mental health sector and beyond in order to evaluate the feedback and get further input.

"We will also be testing a number of potential changes and adaptations to the app to make it as safe and effective as possible for both subscribers and their followers."

 

Comments

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Jack flynn
over 4 years ago
Samaritans Radar is now also available in Google Play Store and Tutuapp https://tutu-app.com/ for Android and iPhone.