Citizen crime app shifts to testing a private security on demand feature

Slightly more ominous than on-demand movies, pizza or ridesharing.

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Once upon a time, the Citizen app was known as Vigilante, a title so provocative that Apple banned it from the App Store and initiated a rebranding. So in 2017 it relaunched as an app built on warning people about nearby emergencies and documenting incidents in the name of transparency.

A report by Motherboard reveals it's not sticking to just transparency, as leaked documents and sightings of security vehicles in Los Angeles show Citizen plans to offer some kind of on-demand private security force service. The company's $20 per month Protect service already promises "live monitoring" and a "digital bodyguard" who can be summoned with a safe word to direct emergency services to your location.

According to a former employee cited by Motherboard, the next step is "to create a privatized secondary emergency response network" that connects users to private security firms directly. A spokesperson referred to the security vehicles as part of a "personal rapid response service" it's testing as a pilot project.

As if a look at your local Nextdoor posts couldn't reveal the potential problems with that setup, just last Saturday the Citizen app targeted a homeless man by posting his picture during a live broadcast, painting him as an arsonist suspected of causing wildfires and promising a $30,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Police announced on Monday that they had arrested someone else for the alleged arson.