A new premium service from Citizen, the ‘crime-fighting app’, wants you to pay them $20 a month for calling emergency services on your behalf. Yes, those emergency services. The ones that you reach by calling 911 from literally any phone in North America.
The new paid service is called “Protect,” aimed at extending the app’s reach beyond the usual tattling-on-your-neighbors that goes on in this kind of ‘neighborhood watch’ app. What do you get for that $20 a month subscription fee? Well, Citizen says it gives you 24/7 access to “Citizen’s team of highly trained Protect Agents.”
You might wonder what a Protect Agent is. Other than a way for Citizen to extract $19.99 from your bank account every month, they seem to be like emergency services dispatchers, with a few extra frills.
Citizen says they can “send emergency responders to your exact location, notify your loved ones, guide you to a safe place, give you peace of mind, or alert nearby Citizen users.” You can do this in multiple ways, or even put your phone into something called “Protect Mode”, where it will use your phone’s microphone and AI to scan for sounds of trouble.
Citizen says that the Protect Agents have “responded to hundreds of thousands of situations,” from the 100,000 or so beta testers. Without knowing how those situations break down though, that could mean anything from missing pets to serious safety situations involving violence or firearms.
While I can see the desire for more safety in our world, I’m not sure that Citizen’s hybrid of telling-on-your-neighbors and paid services to supplant the established (and free!) emergency services is the way to go. If you really want to spend $20 a month to make your neighborhood safer, donate it to the local fire station, or any local charity.
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