Women’s safety apps are becoming increasingly popular - here’s how they work

Women’s safety apps are becoming increasingly popular - here’s how they work (Photo: Shutterstock)
Women’s safety apps are becoming increasingly popular - here’s how they work (Photo: Shutterstock)

The number of people downloading safety apps has increased significantly in the wake the recent disappearance and suspected murder of Sarah Everard.

One of the most popular apps, WalkSafe had only 2000 downloads until a few weeks ago, but has since become the top free app on the Apple Store, as well as entering the top 10 for Android downloads.

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The app was developed by Emma Kay, who wanted to create the app as a result of her own experiences of harassment.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “It was something that I definitely felt very strongly about.

“There have been instances in the past of myself, dating back from a young age – I’m talking schoolgirl age – where you felt nervous, you’ve been scared.

“I’ve been followed, I’ve had someone, a stranger in the street put his hand up my skirt, I’ve been in those sorts of situations and it does start young.”

Privacy concerns

Some privacy experts warn that some of the apps could actually be more about selling on user-data than ensuring women’s safety.

Digital Privacy Advocate at ProPrivacy, Jo O'Reilly, said: “Even with the good ones, there is a real risk that app choice could easily become just another responsibly.

“Another thing for women to remember and worse, yet another stick to beat women with if they fail to download the correct safety app.

The onus should never be on women to choose the right app, it is, and always will be, on men not to attack women.”

Ms O’Reilly also specified a few in-built safety features that most smartphones are equipped with.

“On an iPhone 8 or later an emergency call can be made by holding the side button and one of the volume buttons down, a countdown will start and an alarm will sound - hopefully deterring a would-be attacker. If you continue holding down the buttons until the countdown times out it will automatically call the emergency services.

“On an iPhone 7 or earlier you can press the side or top button five times in quick succession until the Emergency SOS slide screen appears.

“On WhatsApp, you can select a contact, and tap the + button to the right of the conversation box and select location - this will enable you to share the location of the device, with the contact.

“It's also reassuring to know that iPhones automatically ping their location once an emergency call is finished, and an Android phone will do the same if the emergency location service is switched on.”

Here are some of the most popular safety apps and what they do.

WalkSafe

The app’s main feature is a map which shows where violent crime hotspots are so they can be more easily avoided, by using monthly police reports on things like muggings and sexual assaults.

There’s also the HomeSafe feature which can be set up to automatically send a message to your chosen contacts if you don’t complete a journey by your set estimated arrival time.

Users can also set up the TapSafe feature, which allows them to tap one of two buttons every few seconds, with a message sent automatically to contacts if you don’t tap a button past the time limit.

Circle of 6

The Circle of 6 app allows users to choose six people from their contacts, and has features which make it easy to send requests for help to these contacts all at once, if you’re in need.

At the click of a button, you can then ask your chosen contacts to call you, to provide a distraction or interruption, come and get you, or just get in touch if you need to talk.

There are also links to helpful resources and details of hotlines and helplines for specialist support.

Kitestring

Kitestring is a free service which doesn’t require you to download an app, or even have a smartphone in order to use it.

It’s a simple service which allows users to text a number when they’re about to go into a situation where they might feel unsafe.

KiteString will then text back to check in on you after a time period of your choosing, and if you don’t reply it will send a personalised message to your chosen contacts.