Circle of 6
The Circle of 6 app offers a platform for users to quickly communicate their safety needs with six trusted individuals. It's focused primarily on sexual assault, although does include resources on intimate partner abuse.
After selecting six people to be part of the circle, the user can send automated messages to them via quick icon buttons. This includes asking for someone to "come and get me" (which includes information on the phone's location if location services are turned on), asking for someone to call and provide an interruption, or letting the contacts know that the user needs to talk to someone.
Another app, Circle of 6 U, allows college campuses to customize the app specifically for their students and the resources available to them. The app will also quickly connect users to the university policies on sexual assault and abuse.
What We Love:
- This app doesn't collect any identifying information from the user.
- Users can enter a number of their choice to be included in the quick dial emergency options and it does not have to be within their contact list. This means survivors could enter in the number of a domestic violence program without saving that number in their phone where the abusive person may see it.
- When first adding people to the circle, the user gets to choose whether they will be immediately notified about being part of the circle. This allows the user to discuss why they are using the app and what they need from the contacts when they are ready.
- The app is available in English and in Hindi.
Safety and Privacy Considerations:
Personal Information & Use:
- The Terms and Conditions states that Tech 4 Good can share personal information of users in order to comply with legal requests.
- It's always possible that the location information shared with others will not be exact. When tested, the location would often be just slightly off. If circle contacts are familiar with where the user is, the difference between where they are and where the map says they are may not be an issue. However, if the user is in an unfamiliar building, neighborhood, or dorm, it could be difficult for the contacts to find their exact location. If somewhere unfamiliar, users should try to give as much details to their location as possible. If using this app for increased safety, it may also help to let contacts know ahead of time if going somewhere new.
- To increase privacy and safety, turn off the location services in the phone when done using the app.
Communicating with Contacts:
- When using the app to send a message to the contacts, it will send in the form of a text message from the default texting platform on the phone. It may not be clear to all users that this communication trail will be in the texting logs. If concerned about privacy, the user should delete the sent text messages.
- The user must designate six contacts to use the app's features, which are added directly from the phone's contact list. However, some survivors may be concerned about the abusive person looking through their contact list and may wish to add someone who is not listed (an advocate or officer, for example). Survivors can add anyone to the customized number option, although this only gives the user the opportunity to call them, not include them in the circle.
- If the survivor doesn't want to communicate via the app with six different people, some of the contacts can be entered multiple times (the contacts will just receive multiple messages).
- All six contacts will be part of all communications sent through the app. The user cannot choose to use it to only communicate a need with two or three out of the group.
- To ensure safety, we suggest users discuss a plan with their contacts so that the circle won't assume that someone else is calling the person back or going to pick them up. Logistically, there is no way for the contacts to talk to each other and they may not know each other to communicate outside of the app. Survivors may be left without help if everyone in their circle assumes that someone else is helping. Additionally, it may be frustrating for contacts if more than one person comes to a location to provide the requested ride.
- The updated version allows users to send a notice to the circle that they are ok. One plan could be that when someone in the circle is available to help, the user sends that message out so the other contacts know. It's important that this be a communicated process so that the rest of the circle is updated without the one person planning to respond thinking that the user no longer needs assistance.
- The exclamation point icon allows the user to quickly call a "24h Safety Hotline" or "Relationship Advice." Users are not given clear information about who they would be contacting. These resources are for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Love Is Respect Helpline. Both are 24-hour anonymous hotlines. When choosing to call either, the outgoing call will be documented in the call log. If concerned about an abusive person looking through the phone, call either hotline from a different phone.
Confidentiality on Campus:
- If using the Circle of 6 U app, users should be aware of the confidentiality limitations of campus staff. Survivors can ask about confidentiality and reporting obligations before disclosing personal details so they are able to make an informed decision about what to share. If the campus cannot offer the level of confidentiality the survivor would like, they can seek out services from a local domestic or sexual violence program that is off-campus.