Archives for the category: Citizens as Informants

August 11, 2010

Ushahidi, A Tool for Activists Is Simplified for the Less Tech Savvy

14giridharadas01_span-articleLarge.jpeg

Software that has been hailed as a powerful tool in response to crisis has become accessible for low-tech activists. Ushahidi, a technology which allows users to create maps from data drawn from messages from cellphones, news reports and the Web, is now available through a Web-based application called Crowdmap. Bits Blog reports.

quotemarksright.jpg Ushahidi was built in the violent aftermath of the 2007 Kenyan elections, after a group of developers responded to a call for a platform that would allow people to post accounts of violence anonymously. (The name means testimony in Swahili.) The platform plots reports it receives on a map, drawing attention to individual accounts and giving an overall sense of the situation.

The platform has been used to track damage from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to map election irregularities in Sudan. Perhaps its most notable moment followed January’s earthquake in Haiti. There, a number was established where people could send text messages with information about trapped earthquake victims. The calls were plotted on a map, which was then monitored by volunteers in the United States. The volunteers then relayed information about those in need of help to rescue workers on the ground.

... Ushahidi’s open-source software has always been available free, but it was not designed to be installed by those without technical skills. The idea behind Crowdmap was to create a simple way for anyone to start their own projects.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

Related articles on Ushahidi blogged by textually.

emily | 8:32 AM | permalink

June 12, 2010

Border Patrol Agents recruiting texters

U.S. Border Patrol agents are asking residents, campers, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts to send anonymous text messages to report suspicious people they come across in the lightly populated area from Washington to Montana.

... Immigrant rights groups say they are worried because similar efforts have devolved into racial and ethnic profiling.

[via The Spokesman]

emily | 10:01 AM | permalink

Reporting on the Gulf oil spill from your cell phone

Some oil spill crowdsourcing projects have created smartphone apps.jpeg As the Gulf oil spill spreads, news about it is coming from all kinds of places -- including regular people with cell phones.

CNN reports on the ways that citizens can participate in "crowdsourced" reporting efforts about this unfolding disaster and response efforts.

quotemarksright.jpg The Oil Spill Crisis Map, a project of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (an environmental advocacy group) and Tulane University students, includes hundreds of field reports filed by people throughout the Gulf region. This map was built using the free open-source software Ushahidi, which was created in Kenya in 2008 specifically with cell phones in mind. You can submit a spill-related report from a cell phone or computer:

Text message (SMS) or multimedia message (MMS): Send your message to 504-272-7OIL. Text messaging works on even the most basic cell phones.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Related:

-- Clickatell and Ushahidi assist with support for Haiti

-- Cell phones and radios help save lives after Haiti earthquake

-- Texts, Tweets Saving Haitians From the Rubble

-- Haiti. Ushahidi offers SMS too help people find each other

-- Crisis mapping brings online tool to Haitian disaster relief effort

emily | 7:30 AM | permalink

December 27, 2006

Taxi drivers to get suspects' information

Short descriptions of criminal suspects’ appearance will be provided by the Korean National Police to private guards and taxi drivers in 2007. SK Telecom, which was the first company to participate in the program, will tip "information about people suspected of serious crimes to around 100,000 private guards and taxi drivers" who registered to its mobile services, reports the Korea Times. KTF and LG Telecom are among other mobile carriers to be included in the program. For criminals, there's the bicycle alternative.

| 1:19 PM | permalink

December 24, 2006

Cell guards cellphone business

According to mobile14.com, prison guards at one of the Australia's biggest jails in Auckland are under police investigation for selling mobile phones (for up to $ 500 a phone ) and other contraband to inmates.

One of the inmates went public "because the guards welshed on the deal - they tipped off other prison officers who searched his cell and confiscated the phones."

emily | 10:32 AM | permalink

October 10, 2006

Vandals get the message as text reporting proves success

A text messaging service for reporting petty crime has been credited with a huge increase in the number of vandals caught by police, according to the Edinburgh Evening News.

"The service, launched earlier this year, means residents in the west of Edinburgh can anonymously text a police number when vandalism is taking place.

A mobile phone top-up voucher is awarded to people who inform police of a crime that leads to a prosecution. "

emily | 5:54 PM | permalink

June 30, 2006

RottenDriver.com Shames the Maniacs by SMS

rottendrivers.jpg Rotten Driver, launched with Public Service Entertainment LLC, encourages people to text message in the license plate number of rotten drivers.

The report is logged and the end user receives a message back with the number of times the plate number has been reported.

Every report appears in the RottenDriver.com Hall of Shame and frequent offenders appear on the Top 10 lists for the day, week and month.

Related stories on appealing to citizens to turn into informants - not related to national security - which is understandable - but to polluting vehicles, anti-social behaviour (how can that not misfire?) or traffic offenses:

-- MS campaign appeal for informants - to single out polluters - Public transportation operators in Jakarta might have to pay more attention to their vehicles' emissions as Jakartans now have a chance to complain by SMS about the fumes they are spewing out.

-- Pilot for police text alerts - Suffolk police are running the year-long pilot scheme, which uses the same technology employed by the Metropolitan Police to make appeals for information following the London bombings on July 7. Eventually people will be able to send picture messages or send in films of crimes.

-- Harlow council uses MMS to catch vandals - The town is encouraging people to take pictures of anti-social acts on their mobile phones and then text them to a special number along with details of where the vandalism has occurred.

-- Indonesia hotline to keep tabs on disease - Indonesia's health ministry launched a hotline to let the public report disease outbreaks and lodge complaints about health care using mobile phone text messages.

-- Snap a picture of a traffic offender - The Transport Ministry of Malaysia is inviting the public to help enforcement officers keep an eye on traffic offenders so that action could be taken against them. So the next time you see a traffic offence being committed, snap it on your handphone or camera and send it to the Hall of Shame section of a newly launched road safety website.

-- Framed! Photos taken by general public net errant motorists in Malaysia - Malaysian authorities have issued summonses to some 40 motorists whose alleged road offenses were exposed in an online Hall of Shame, a news report said Monday (Ausut 22, 2005).

emily | 8:42 AM | permalink

April 30, 2006

Crime pays for police informants in Britain

060428201449.ryb0nxk00_textme---a.jpg The AFP reports that Sussex Police are "rewarding informants with 10 pounds (14 euros, 18 dollars) in mobile phone credits for useful tip-offs via text messaging.

"The police have set up a special number to take information on crimes from members of the public via SMS messaging, under a pilot scheme called "Textme" that is aimed at young people.

"We log the information from each text we receive and subject them to proper investigation," said inspector Mark Piper, who thought up the idea.

"If the information proves useful, we respond with a thank you and tell them we would like to give them 10 pounds credit" -- worth about 100 text messages on the typical pay-as-you-go cellphone.

emily | 5:11 PM | permalink

April 16, 2006

SMS Hotline to Police, 30'000 strong

rakanCOP.jpg It started off as a project to get city folks involved in police crime prevention activities but Rakan Cop of Malaysia has since grown into a 30,000-strong force that has become the eyes and ears of the boys in blue, reports The Star via SMS Text News.

"Under the programme, the public would act as police lookouts and provide information on crime to the police’s Command Central Centre through its hotline or SMS.

Statistics showed that since Rakan Cop was launched the city police's crime-solving rate had improved tremendously. vSAC Jamaluddin said that before Rakan Cop was launched, city police received only about 700 calls from the public on its hotline and 2,435 in the form of SMS.

By last year, these calls had grown 10-fold and the SMS more than eight times. "

emily | 4:05 PM | permalink

February 10, 2006

Text messaging to tackle crime

Yet another local initiative, this time by Spelthorne Council, offering the opportunity for citizens to report anything out of the ordinary by text messaging.

"Abandoned vehicles, fly tipping or rubbish collections, residents can now contact the council by using their mobile phone to text to report any vandalism. [via Staines Guardian]

Related: - Police sets up SMS hoteline for youngsters to report vandals

emily | 1:24 PM | permalink

January 27, 2006

Police sets up SMS hoteline for youngsters to report vandals

Scotsman News reports on the police of Midlothian (UK), having set up a text messaging hotline to encourage youngsters to report on bus vandals.:

"Buses have been targeted by a gang of youths aged between 12 and 15, said Pc Gary McFarlane, of the Operation Excalibur anti-vandal team. "It's only a matter of time before there is a serious injury, whether it be passengers, pedestrians or the drivers themselves.

The police hope to gather intelligence from youths not involved in smashing the windows who may prefer to send a message and remain anonymous, rather than phone police directly."

Click here for other examples where the police or government has sollicted citizen sousveillance.

emily | 6:44 PM | permalink

January 24, 2006

Thai Government provides SMS tip-off service on insurgents' plans

The Ministry of Interior has launched a new short message service (SMS) in Thailand's deep South for people to provide tip-offs to authorities on insurgents' plans, according to Interior Minister Air Chief Marshal Kongsak Wanthana. [via Thai News Agency MCOT]

"Mobile phone users in the country's three southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani would begin to provide tip-offs to the authorities through the Dharmrongdharm Centre's special helpline, 1567, free of charges from February 1".

Related stories on authorities appealing to citizens to turn into informants - not related to national security - which is understandable - but to polluting vehicles, anti-social behaviour (how can that not misfire?) or traffic offenses:

-- SMS campaign appeal for informants - to single out polluters - Jakartans now have a chance to complain by SMS about vehicles' emissions.

-- More Mobile Sousveillance - We've had some debate, both after the recent London attempted bombings and about a week before about the term "sousveillance", and whether it (or "coveillance" or perhaps "equiveillance") is appropriate for people keeping an eye on each other, particularly at the police's behest. (Mobhappy)

-- Pilot for police text alerts - Suffolk police are running the year-long pilot scheme, which uses the same technology employed by the Metropolitan Police to make appeals for information following the London bombings on July 7. Eventually people will be able to send picture messages or send in films of crimes.

-- Harlow council uses MMS to catch vandals - The town is encouraging people to take pictures of anti-social acts on their mobile phones and then text them to a special number along with details of where the vandalism has occurred.

-- Indonesia hotline to keep tabs on disease - Indonesia's health ministry launched a hotline to let the public report disease outbreaks and lodge complaints about health care using mobile phone text messages.

-- Snap a picture of a traffic offender - The Transport Ministry of Malaysia is inviting the public to help enforcement officers keep an eye on traffic offenders so that action could be taken against them. So the next time you see a traffic offence being committed, snap it on your handphone or camera and send it to the Hall of Shame section of a newly launched road safety website.

-- Framed! Photos taken by general public net errant motorists in Malaysia - Malaysian authorities have issued summonses to some 40 motorists whose alleged road offenses were exposed in an online Hall of Shame, a news report said Monday (Ausut 22, 2005).

emily | 3:17 PM | permalink

January 12, 2006

A "citizen journalism"-related website called Everyday Hogwash

A website called Everyday Hogwash just launched. File it in your ideas list under "citizen journalism"-related. E-Media Tidbits reports.

The concept is simple: Hogwash collects "rants" from people about various annoyances and things they've had to endure from companies: "Hidden fees. Really tiny fine print. Overbooked airplanes. Hypnotic hold music." We've all had bad experiences with various companies, so, the website's concept goes, let's share them and "have some therapeutic yuks at the millions of little ways companies stick it to us."

To encourage submissions, the site is very contest-oriented, giving away cash to daily prize winners as selected by a panel of judges.

The concept seems a bit thin for a website -- it's more like a feature of a larger site. Indeed, the idea of using contests to solicit citizen submissions is a good one.

emily | 8:13 AM | permalink

September 9, 2005

SMS tip-off leads to arrest of duo stealing motorcycle parts

An SMS from a concerned citizen has enabled the police to arrest two youths who stole parts from a motorcycle in Calgary here yesterday, reports Total Motorcycle.

"According to the State Criminal Investigation Department, the informer sent the SMS to the police's hotline.

Members of the public are encourage to send information on suspicious activities".

emily | 9:31 AM | permalink

September 1, 2005

Dutch football rioters turn themselves in following SMS

Following yesterday's post on the Dutch police sending out 17,000 text messages, requesting football fans to help track down the hooligans involved in the riot on the day of the Feyenoord-Ajax football match last April, Engadget reports that "the mobile carriers operating the airwaves on the premises, both tracked and divulged to the police the numbers and names of the accounts of all fans present with an active mobile phone".

And thinking they had been fingered, four suspects contacted the police after getting the SMS, and a fifth has just turned himself in.

emily | 8:40 AM | permalink

August 31, 2005

Amsterdam sends SMS investigation appeal to citizens

The Rotterdam-Rijnmond police sent 17,000 people, SMS messages on Tuesday requesting their help track down the hooligans involved in the riot on the day of the Feyenoord-Ajax football match last April, reports Expatica.

"The SMS read: "During the football riots on 17 April 2005 you were in the vicinity of stadium De Kuip. The police are looking into this incident and ask for your assistance. See: www.politie-rijnmond.nl."

The police received the telephone numbers but not the names of the owners of the mobiles".

emily | 12:35 PM | permalink

August 28, 2005

Over 600 SMS alerts for "Clean Air" campaign

If Malta is anything to go by, it seems that authorities calling out for citizens to report on other citizens works. But if such initiatives proliferate, will we always know when we cross the line, between performing a civic duty and becoming an informant?

In just three days, 639 reports of emissions have been logged with the Malta Transport Authority under its new Emission Alert SMS 4 Clean Air campaign, reports The Times of Malta.

"Motorists and commuters are being urged to assume the role of enforcement officers by sending a text message to 5061 1899 with the registration number of the vehicle belching out the offending smoke."

Related: - Malta launches "Emission Alert" by SMS

emily | 9:30 AM | permalink

August 24, 2005

Malta launches "Emission Alert" by SMS

carpollution.jpg Another story for my new "citizens turn into informants" category. This time the Malta Transport Authority has embarked on a campaign called Emission Alert, through which it is calling on people to send an SMS with the registration number of the vehicles that are emitting too much fumes and the authority will then call these vehicles for an inspection. Yesterday, the Jakarta Post reported on a similar campaign.

"Vodafone and go mobile users may send an SMS to number 5061 1899 with the registration number of the vehicle emitting excessive fumes. The authority will call the owner of the car for an inspection of the vehicle within three days."

ADT chief executive officer Gianfranco Selvagi said the system the authority had in place was “fool proof”. But when asked how the authority was going to ensure that it does not take action against owners of cars who may be victims of pranks, Mr Selvagi replied with a non-answer, saying he did not wish to divulge this information since he was inviting people to test out the authority's system."

emily | 1:22 PM | permalink

August 23, 2005

SMS campaign appeal for informants - to single out polluters

carpoljakarta.gif Public transportation operators in Jakarta might have to pay more attention to their vehicles' emissions as Jakartans now have a chance to complain by SMS about the fumes they are spewing out, reports The Jakarta Post, in yet another example of a distrubing new trend, where authorities appeal to citizens to turn into informants.

"Pollution in Jakarta is getting worse every day. Public participation is crucial to reducing pollution. That's why we have been encouraging the public to send us their complaints by SMS. Rather surprisingly, many Jakartans have actually responded," Ari Muhammad of Swisscontact told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

Swisscontact is encouraging people to text their complaints to 0817-66-00001, stating how bad the smoke was, the type of vehicle -- taxi, bus, or mikrolet -- and the vehicles registration number.

Related stories on authorities appealing to citizens to turn into informants - not related to national security - which is understandable - but to polluting vehicles, anti-social behaviour (how can that not misfire?) or traffic offenses:

-- More Mobile Sousveillance - We've had some debate, both after the recent London attempted bombings and about a week before about the term "sousveillance", and whether it (or "coveillance" or perhaps "equiveillance") is appropriate for people keeping an eye on each other, particularly at the police's behest. (Mobhappy)

-- Pilot for police text alerts - Suffolk police are running the year-long pilot scheme, which uses the same technology employed by the Metropolitan Police to make appeals for information following the London bombings on July 7. Eventually people will be able to send picture messages or send in films of crimes.

-- Harlow council uses MMS to catch vandals - The town is encouraging people to take pictures of anti-social acts on their mobile phones and then text them to a special number along with details of where the vandalism has occurred.

-- Indonesia hotline to keep tabs on disease - Indonesia's health ministry launched a hotline to let the public report disease outbreaks and lodge complaints about health care using mobile phone text messages.

-- Snap a picture of a traffic offender - The Transport Ministry of Malaysia is inviting the public to help enforcement officers keep an eye on traffic offenders so that action could be taken against them. So the next time you see a traffic offence being committed, snap it on your handphone or camera and send it to the Hall of Shame section of a newly launched road safety website.

-- Framed! Photos taken by general public net errant motorists in Malaysia - Malaysian authorities have issued summonses to some 40 motorists whose alleged road offenses were exposed in an online Hall of Shame, a news report said Monday (Ausut 22, 2005).

emily | 8:21 AM | permalink
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