Tech is shaping the protests, from police scanner apps to Google Docs

The arsenal of protest apps is growing.


June 9, 2020

Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

After more than a week of demonstrations, the protest movement is evolving. Demonstrators are reinforcing their tactics with some tech-savvy strategies. 

Think Waze, but for protests

The crime-and-safety app Citizen has become the new go-to protest tool, recording over 600k first-time users over the last week and shooting from 744th to 4th in daily Apple store downloads.

Originally launched in 2016 under the name Vigilante, the app sought to make 911 more transparent by giving people a communal way to monitor crime.

Citizen is powered by user reports and a custom police radio reader. It updates users on demonstration and law-enforcement activity, along with other major developments. Users can submit videos and correct inaccurate information. 

Citizen said 70% of its users say the app makes them feel safer, and that a large percentage of its users are people of color.

It’s part of a growing app arsenal

Independent developers are getting in on the game too. One web app removes metadata from photos, and another pixelates images to mask users’ identities.

Google Docs has also become a staple for sharing petitions and resources. 

Hey Siri, stop listening 

Phones are essential for communication, but protesters worry that signals make it easier to track their movements. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends enabling airplane mode to prevent phones from transmitting signals to cell phone towers. And The Markup broke down all the ways protestors are modding their phones to avoid being tracked, from muting their notifications to forgoing Touch ID. 

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