A mobile alert app for human rights defenders



Technologies Used


Project Team

Josh WIlson
Leon Tzeng
Shane Gottada
Designer Entrepreneur Investor Corporate

This team is looking for

Product Manager Investor


Amnesty International's Panic Button project is an SMS ‘alert application for human rights activists at risk. In an open process, we designed and prototyped Panic Button as an application that enables those at risk to get out a message and location information as fast as possible to their network in an emergency. Panic Button is an android application by Amnesty International that helps tens of thousands of Activists and Journalists across the globe to notify up to three contacts when they need help. It does this by sending a text or twitter message with a brief distress notice and your location. Leon, Shane and I worked with Anji and Christoph of Amnesty International to improve the Panic Button app that journalists and activists all over rely on to help notify their most trusted, dependable contacts that something’s happened, and they need help. The Panic Button works by sending a message to your chosen contacts with a short, pre-defined, message stating that you need help, along with a link to your GPS coordinates. We immediately noticed three key areas that needed to be improved, the app wasn’t very well masked as a calculator, it was easy to launch by anyone browsing your phone, and it had to be manually activated. When you’re detained and handcuffed while crossing a nation’s border, you may not have time to reach for your phone and activate the SOS, so we’ve added the Guardian, a mode that will trigger the SOS feature automatically after a user configurable amount of time unless the owner checks in and tells the Guardian to stand down. If your phone is taken from you, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that distress beacon is now disguised as an apparent system application and can only be accessed by calling a specific, user defined code, that only you knows. So what was once an app that was easily found, easily entered, and not so easily activated in tight situations, is now well buried, secretly accessed, and will watch your back when things could get rough.