A new iPhone app is being launched to help women deal with harassment in public spaces. The mobile phone app will be used to capture the user’s location and an image of the harasser. Once used, an email will be sent to the participant asking for an account of the experience. The application links to a dynamic mapping system so that photos and experiences submitted by participants can be pooled together to help paint a clearer picture of the scale of the problem of street harassment.
Hollaback (first launched in 2005 in New York City as a blog) is creating a unified reporting system via geo-mapping that can be scaled globally. The information submitted will be made available online and will allow women to see locations and times which have higher incidences of harassment, and types of harassment experienced. The point is to quantify these experiences and communicate its impacts to policymakers and legislators, and ultimately to reduce crime against women and LGBT individuals.
So what progress has been made? The iPhone app has been developed and was submitted recently but Apple was afraid that the team was going to use the iphone app to START A REVOLUTION and so was a little slow getting back to the Hollaback team. Their Android developer has completed building an app for Android phones. The beta launch of the apps will hopefully take place this month initially in NYC but will spread to other cities very soon. The aim is to “grow to a minimum of three cities worldwide each year. In two years, we will track over 5,000 stories of harassment and assault that would otherwise be internalized and overlooked”.
While there is a bit of controversy surrounding the launch of such an app, I fully support the idea of mobile and mapping technologies allowing women to take control of their own safety in public spaces, to become what Hollaback call ‘open source activists’. The idea is by no means perfect, but hey, look around! How many measures put in place, and designed to protect people, are?
2010 is seeing a growing movement aimed at getting rid of harassment of women in public spaces. Between the launch of Hollaback’s mobile phone apps and Vicky Simister’s LASH campaign (London Anti-Street Harassment) which has received a lot of media attention in recent months, and Dawn Foster’s website called A Hundred & One Wankers, which maps incidents of gender based verbal abuse or other harassment she has received as a cyclist, I’m pleased to see that this ‘invisible’ problem is finally getting some public airtime.