Truecaller launches personal safety app Guardians
Caller identification app Truecalleron Wednesday unveiled a new personal safety app called 'Guardians'.
The app, which will be free for users, has been in development for about 15 months. Guardians can be downloaded from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The app will have no ads or premium tiers.
"There are probably hundreds of apps on the app stores for personal safety and location sharing. But none of them works in a way where you can involve family, friends, the community at large, and the authorities," True Software Scandinavia AB CEO and co-founder Alan Mamedi said.
He noted that Guardians was born out of a simple question - how can we crowdsource personal safety like the way Truecaller crowdsources protection against spam, scams, and frauds.
"We believe we have the right tools and the conviction to make Guardians happen...Our past four years of research on women's safety and campaigns like #ItsNokOk, we now understand the problem well and it's now time to do something about making our cities safer for everyone," he said.
The Swedish company has 270 million active users globally, of which 200 million are in India. Guardians app asks for three permissions: location, contacts (for sending invites to personal Guardians), and phone permission (to show your phone status to your Guardians). After signing up for Guardians, users can select their own personal Guardians from their contact list, choose when to stop/start sharing location, and setup permanent sharing with selected Guardians.
In case of distress, users can tap the emergency button to notify all their Guardians about their location. The company plans to also integrate contact with local law enforcement in the coming days through the app, to help users get help in the shortest span of time.
Mamedi said the Guardians app cannot see the live data (like location) as it is live-streamed between the two different devices.
"We are using an encrypted line between the two different clients...So that actually means that you can't revisit a previous journey because we don't store that data...The data that is shared with the 'forever sharing' option is the state of battery and signal, along with the location to help the trusted guardians follow the user," he added.
The community feature allows users to seek assistance from Guardians in the vicinity, who can choose to help the person.
"When you are in a situation, the volunteers around you get a notification. At that point in time, they can't see who you are and all they see is someone around needs help. And when they opt in to help, you get a notification to accept their help. So there's a two-way consent," said Nakul Kabra, Product Manager at Truecaller.
He added that when users accept help from the volunteer, their location is shared with another person and they can directly call the user as they can see the phone number as well, he added.
To a question on how volunteers are verified, Mamedi said there are different processes in place to verify them and that the company uses data around this as well.
"This is what we've been doing for the last 12 years, making sure that we filter out the good and the bad actors through the community. I would say this is one of our strengths, but on top of this, we'll also add some other processes to it," he added.
On bringing law enforcement agencies into the fold, he said the app has been designed in a way that it can plug in different law enforcers into the platform.
"This is something that we don't have yet, but we've prepared the system for it. So, our ambition is to get as many (law enforcement agencies) as possible into the service," he added.