Voluntary ‘safety’ app Citizen accidentally Doxes singer Billie Eilish

The provoca­tive crime-report­ing app ‘Cit­i­zen’, for­mer­ly known as ‘Vig­i­lante’, is mak­ing head­lines again for all the bad rea­sons. Singer Bil­lie Eil­ish was doxed Thurs­day night after an alleged bur­glary at her home, expos­ing her address to thousands.

Short­ly after the rob­bery, the app noti­fied users, includ­ing their home address, that a rob­bery had occurred in the High­land Park neigh­bor­hood of Los Ange­les. Vice report­ed that Cit­i­zen’s mes­sage was updat­ed at 21:41 to indi­cate that the house belonged to Eilish.

The alert was sent to 178,000 peo­ple and viewed by about 78,000, accord­ing to Cit­i­zen’s met­rics. On Fri­day morn­ing, Cit­i­zen updat­ed the descrip­tion of the inci­dent on its app, replac­ing the exact address with a near­by crossroads.

While celebri­ties’ address­es are usu­al­ly pub­lic (usu­al­ly on crap­py web­sites ded­i­cat­ed to such inva­sive non­sense), a pop­u­lar app streams the address­es of pop music megas­tars to thou­sands of users. Because… it’s new. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is also Cit­i­zen’s lat­est dis­rup­tive move.

When Cit­i­zen launched it as ‘Vig­i­lante’ in 2016, Apple imme­di­ate­ly with­drew the title from the App Store, cit­ing that it might encour­age users to get into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. There­fore, Apple was reborn as a new safe­ty-focused cit­i­zen, and made a fresh start. 

The app advis­es users to avoid ongo­ing inci­dents and now offers tools to help those caught in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. This sounds rea­son­able, but in at least one episode, we see a fever­ish cor­po­ra­tion that pri­or­i­tizes atten­tion and prof­it over social responsibility.

In May 2021, CEO Andrew Frame ordered the launch of a livestream, urg­ing app users to hunt down a sus­pect­ed wild­fire arson­ist (pro­vid­ed by an LAPD Sergeant and debriefed by police). 

based on res­i­dent emails). He said he would offer a $10,000 reward for find­ing a sus­pect, increas­ing to $30,000 by the evening. 

As the hunt con­tin­ues, the CEO becomes even more fren­zied, and one inter­nal Slack con­ver­sa­tion encour­ages the team with an ecsta­t­ic mes­sage in all caps, “Get this by midnight.”

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