**PLEASE NOTE: THIS APP HAS RECENTLY BEEN UPDATED. SAFETY NET IS CURRENTLY TESTING THE UPDATES MADE TO THE APP.**
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. A premium version comes with the option to have a third party, professional security company who also receives the alerts and can take action by contacting authorities. This version is currently only available in Norway, Sweden, and South America, although there are plans to expand into the U.S.
- bSafe'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. 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.
- In several places, the user is given control over how the app works. They are able to decide if they want to share certain communications with some or all of their network, if they want the alarm to sound on their phone, 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:
- 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.
- Bipper reserves the right to disclose user information as necessary to comply with applicable laws, legal process, or governmental requests.
- A lot of personal, sensitive information is collected by this app and there is nothing in the policy that explains their data retention policy.
- Bipper specifies that they can use some personally identifying information that is submitted within the app.
- Users are asked to keep location on at all times. Each time the app is opened, a reminder 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.
Communicating with Contacts:
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.
o 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 didn't continue to create the account. This left the app completely unusable.
o 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 could be a trail of the app use that the user doesn't expect. 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.
- 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 use to access that evidence, how long it is retained, or who else could possibly get access to it. Survivors should consider their options carefully and try to gather more information if planning to use for this purpose.