After months of testing with more than 100,000 beta testers, Citizen is introducing its Premium Protect offer for all users today. The subscription service costs $ 20 per month and opens up a number of features in the app.
The most important of the new paid features is the Get Agent button, which provides access to a Citizen operator for a number of different scenarios. The company states that it exists for cases where a user “may not want to be seen calling 911”. Whether this is a question of personal safety or any other police call issue undoubtedly depends on both the user and the situation. The agents act effectively as a link to the emergency services personnel.
For many, Citizen’s various controversies have overshadowed its properties in recent years. Initially launched as “Vigilante,” the app made headlines earlier this year for launching a private fleet of vehicles, “personal rapid response service,” and a reward for a person falsely accused of sparking wildfire in Los Angeles had.
“Our Protect Agents are highly qualified security experts who can help in a variety of stressful or insecure situations,” writes the company about the new service. “You personalize your experience with your situation. They can escalate to 911, give first responders your exact location, notify your designated emergency contacts, navigate you to a safe location, or just stay connected and monitor you until you feel safe again. “
The other important feature here is a new protection mode which in turn provides quick access to the above agent. When activated in a questionable situation, the app monitors the user’s audio feed live by using AI to detect things like screams and connect to the agent. If you don’t answer, you will be connected automatically. Users can also shake the phone twice to access the agent directly.
A current job advertisement states:
In this role, you communicate with users who need help under potentially unsafe conditions. You are responsible for having difficult conversations and for determining the severity of these situations in real time to the best of your knowledge. They are on the front lines to help users who feel unsafe around them and provide direct assistance and escalation to the 911 emergency number.
It’s a potentially useful service for those looking for some kind of panic button app – similar to something like Noonlight. However, the question remains whether, given the red flags in its history, Citizen is the service best positioned to provide such an offering.
The app was initially launched in 2016 blocked from the App Store of concerns about vigilantism (perhaps not far, given the original name / positioning). As it expanded beyond New York, the renamed app has continued to hoist flags nationally.
Earlier this year, crime-solving crowdsourcing expanded to include branded vehicles patrolling Los Angeles. “The comprehensive master plan was to create a privatized emergency secondary network,” a source told Motherboard at the time. The company later added that it has no plans to expand the service after its first pilot.
That same month, the service’s CEO offered a $ 30,000 reward to someone suspected of starting wildfire in Los Angeles. The service later apologized for mailing a photo to the wrong person that received more than 800,000 views. “We deeply regret our mistake and are working on improving our internal processes to prevent this from happening,” the company said in a press release.
Citizen is currently available in 20 US cities. The new Protect Mode service launches today for iOS. An Android version is in the works.