By Daniel Bates
Last updated at 8:50
It claims to be a handy way to make you a ‘better citizen’.
But a new app for the iPhone has been condemned by critics who claim it is turning mobile users into a network of government spies.
The PatriotApp links your phone to American security and law enforcement agencies via the Internet and allows you to report anything you want at the touch of a button.
By simply pressing the relevant icon, users can sound the alarm for terrorism, ‘suspicious activity’, a health pandemic or an environmental safety issue.
The $0.99 app, named after the controversial Patriot Act brought in by the U.S. government after 9/11, is designed to ‘encourage active citizen participation in the War on Terror and in protecting their families and surrounding communities’, its makers Citizen Concepts claim.
But critics say it is like putting Big Brother in the palm of your hand and could easily be open to abuse by those with questionable agendas.
The app works by making a direct link between your phone and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The software also links up to your Facebook and Twitter page meaning you can post alerts on there if needed.
There are options to report ‘government waste’ and a forum for employee whistleblowers whilst other features include a shortcut to the FBI’s Most Wanted Internet page, in case you think you see a suspect out and about.
Citizen Concepts claim that the app will allow citizens to record and reports issues of National Security, government waste, white collar crime, workplace harassment, discrimination, and public health concerns.
But since its announcement, technology bloggers and commentators have savaged the company’s motives.
Technology blog Infowars.com wrote that it was little more than the launch of the ‘iPhone snitch network’.
‘An app like this is meant to solidify the climate of fear in which our leaders want us to exist,’ they wrote.
On Mobilecrunch, Ashley commented: ‘It really does sound like big brother is watching you!’
And on InfoTech.com Erin Monda said: ‘While I suppose this level of connectivity would be helpful, I am deeply cautious about what a degree of overzealousness might lead to.
‘It’s not 1984 yet - thankfully - but there may still be cause for concern.’
Passed in October 2001 with little debate in Congress, the Patriot Act gave U.S. law enforcement agencies sweeping powers to monitor the the personal habits of not only those who have been identified as suspected terrorists, but anyone residing in the United States as well as United States citizens residing abroad.
The law for the first time forced third parties holding personal date to give it up to law enforcement officers without telling the individual concerned, and significantly expanded the use of wiretaps.
A storm of criticism followed, fuelled by a string of cases where federal investigators had invoked the act for purposes it was not intended such as targeting journalists and illegal file sharers who breached copyright law.
Citizen Concepts co-owner Dr Roy Swiger defended the PatriotApp.
‘PatriotApp is a real-world solution for real-world problems...the ever-present threat of terrorism, demonstrate the need for such an application,’ he said.