bSafe is a personal safety app in which users create a "social safety network" of individuals who are notified in case of an emergency or in situations where the user feels unsafe. Various features allow users to invite friends to follow their location via GPS when on the move, quickly send their location information to friends, set a timer that will automatically send an alarm to friends if they don't return in time to turn it off, or initiate a fake call into their phone if they want an interruption. In an emergency, the user can send an alarm to friends with their location information. The user can also decide whether they want the alarm to sound a loud noise on their phone or be silent so they can discreetly trigger it. The basic version is free
What We Like:
- Mobile Software’s Terms of Service specifically prohibit users from stalking, threatening, or violating the privacy of others; locating another user without their consent (unless a guardian of a minor); disseminate any defamatory or obscene content; or collect information about others without their consent. Mobile Software collects the contact details of friends connected to the app. Users should only invite people that they know. Before adding friends or family to your network, you should have a conversation with them around privacy details. Apps such as these are meant to increase safety and we appreciate clear policies that prohibit their misuse.
- There is no limit on or minimum number of contacts the user can invite to the network. The user also has the ability to select a primary contact that will also get a phone call, in addition to a text message, in the event that you set off the alarm.
- In several places, the user is given control over how the app works. Users can decide if they want the alarm to sound an alert on their phone or if they want it to notify friends silently, how long the delay will be from when they push the alarm button to when the alarm is triggered, and if the app will initiate a video recording when the alarm is pushed. They can also choose to use a pin code on the app to increase security. The pin would be required in order to disarm a sent alarm.
Safety & Privacy Considerations / Tips:
Personal Information & Safety:
- All of the voice and video recordings captured in the app are also saved to the user’s photo gallery. This information is also saved in your history settings on the app. Survivors should consider how this could impact their privacy and safety if other individuals have access to the phone or can connect to the data on the phone (iCloud, for example).
- Users should be aware that once the SOS button is activated their flashlight will automatically turn on and a voice will state, “Alarm activated, all guardians will be notified”. If the alarm sound is turned off there, will be no voice notification however, the light on your phone will be enabled and your primary contact will be notified.
- The app content encourages inviting as many people as possible to increase safety, although it is not a guarantee that it will create safety. Users should be aware that if they set off the alarm, then all the friends they are connected to will get a notification, including live access to their location. Users are able to set a primary contact that will get also get a call, in addition to the text message
- Users need to set up an account to use this app or connect using Facebook. Users should be mindful that logging in using Facebook means that the app will then get some information about you that is available on Facebook. Survivors should check all permissions to see what the app will see or be able to do (if it can post to your page) and either limit the information the app can get or create an account without using Facebook credentials.
- A lot of personal and sensitive information such as name, email, phone number, and contacts phone numbers is collected by this app and there is nothing in the policy that explains how long they hold onto this data or any of the recordings gathered from using the app. It might also include locations, information about emergencies, incidents, and contact details of your friends, family and guardians.
- Mobile Software does not collect information from anyone 13 years or younger, instead they require that the parent or guardian submit information on behalf of the minor. Once a guardian submits this information it will be treated in accordance like anyone else’s data.
- Mobile Software specifies the various ways that they can use some personally identifying information that is submitted within the app. One option listed is emailing the user to welcome them to the service or to request feedback. It’s important to note that survivors should only use an email they do not believe the abuser can access so that this communication does not accidentally alert that person of the use of this app as a safety measure.
- Users are asked to keep location on at all times. Each time the app is opened and as the user navigates through the app, a reminder repeatedly pops up if location is not turned on. Survivors often turn their location off to minimize privacy and safety risks. Users should only keep location on if they want to use it for this app and can turn it off when they are not using it.
- It’s important for users to note that ALL friends connected in the app are notified when the user sets off an alarm and they all then receive live, continuous access to the user’s location.
Communicating with Contacts:
- The app encourages users to connect with multiple friends to increase safety, saying “The more you add, the safer you’ll be”. This can definitely be misleading as more friends may or may not increase the user’s safety. It also provides advice for the user to send repeated messages to a friend if that person has not accepted the app request. What will be important for the user’s safety is clear communication with all contacts on what the app is and what the expectations will be if they receive a notification that the alarm has been set off. This is especially true if a contact isn’t near the user’s location. The user should be clear on if they would want 911 notified or the contacts to come in person, etc.
- When a contact is added into the app, they are immediately sent a notification asking them to accept the terms and be added. Features cannot be used until invites have been accepted. The invite includes a link and each person invited needs to download the app and create an account.
- When tested, most of the individuals who received the invite didn't realize they were required to do anything and they did not accept the invite. Others clicked the link and accepted the invite, downloaded the app, but did not continue to create the account. Once you request to have that person added to your social safety network, if they accept you will be notified. It is important to know that once the user adds a contact to their network, even if the contact has not downloaded the app, they will be notified via SMS that there is an emergency. A link is also sent that shares the location of the user and states, “I triggered my b Safe alarm and need help! Please get in touch.”
- The user is not given an option over when the invites are sent. They are sent as text messages and are then documented in the phone log, which leaves information that the person is using the app on the phone. This isn’t obvious to the user and there is no notification that it was sent that way. Survivors who use the app may want to delete the sent text message if they are concerned that the abusive person could see it.
- The platform currently does not support Google Voice numbers and will not be able to send text messages to friends who are using that as their contact number.
User Options & Evidence Collection:
- Survivors using this app should take a look at the settings so the app is set up in the way that works the best for them. For example, if a survivor wants to use this as a way to contact help but wouldn't want the abuser knowing, they can silence the alarm so it will be sent discreetly to friends.
- Users also have the choice to turn on video recording when an alarm is triggered. If this is used, the video, along with location data and an event time stamp, would be available if the user wanted it for evidence.
- There is no information on the process that users would have to follow in order to access their evidence from Mobile Software, how long it is retained, or who else could possibly get access to it. Although video and voice recordings are saved to the users device, survivors should consider their options carefully and try to gather more information if planning to use for this purpose.