Amnesty International App for Protecting Activists Nominated for Global Impact Award

Press Release
May 30, 2013

Amnesty International App for Protecting Activists Nominated for Global Impact Award

Mobile Alert System Will Potentially Save Lives in Dangerous Regions

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Amnesty International is one of 10 finalists competing for four $765,000 development grants from Google and the Global Impact Award for its design of a Panic Button app which will help protect human rights activists in danger. The public can vote for its favorite nominee on the Global Impact Challenge site. The winners will be announced on June 3.

"For years we have pioneered the use of geospatial technologies, such as satellite images, to document human rights violations," said Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA. “But by building on the global explosion in use of mobile phones, we hope to leverage the benefits of technology to empower activists at the frontlines of human rights defense to better protect themselves."

Numerous human rights researchers and activists in global hotspots sometimes find themselves in high-risk situations in order to share information on human rights violations and abuses. Amnesty's push for developing technology that can aid researchers and other individuals at risk has led to the invention of this mobile alert app allowing activists to secretly disclose their location to key contacts in an emergency situation.

Panic Button works by allowing individuals at risk to broadcast their location to a pre-set list of contacts, with updates on their whereabouts sent every minute after the app is activated. For their security, this information never shows in the phone outbox and the app runs invisibly in the phone's background.

Originally envisioned by Amy Bonsall, a team of volunteers at IDEO created the first prototype over a single weekend. Amnesty International developed the app during the past year in an open design process involving more than 650 designers, developers, human rights advocates and NGOs.

Three winners will be selected by a judging panel including Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. Voting closes on May 31, and the four winners will be revealed by the judges on June 3.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.