Un-American behaviour? There’s an app for that

Paul Raven @ 21-12-2010

So last week I flippantly suggested the possibility of a smartphone app for reporting politically or religiously unpalatable behaviour by persons in your immediate vicinity. I often make these worst-case-scenario suggestions as a rhetorical device, a kind of ultimate extrapolation of the sf-nal “if this carries on…” riff, rather than in the sincere belief that they will actually come to pass. Sometimes, however, reality likes to remind me that a cynic is rarely disappointed [via TechDirt]

Citizen Concepts announces the launch of PatriotAppTM, the world’s first iPhone application that empowers citizens to assist government agencies in creating safer, cleaner, and more efficient communities via social networking and mobile technology.  This app was founded on the belief that citizens can provide the most sophisticated and broad network of eyes and ears necessary to prevent terrorism, crime, environmental negligence, or other malicious behavior.

The underlying concept is actually pretty sound (not to mention an inevitable component of a truly networked society) but the presentation is, to me at least, chilling in its jingoistic nationalism*, and a reminder that technology is morally neutral: it’s the hand that swipes the screen which wields the blade.

[ * This is not an anti-American dig, by the way; I’d find a Union Flag-draped equivalent even more unpleasant. It is my hope that systems like this will actually erode nationalism in the long run, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion, sadly. ]