The Challenge


How can technology help people working to uphold human rights in the face of unlawful detention? read the brief

Winning idea

Something's wrong alert plan - PACT (Prepare, Act, Cooordinate and Communicate, Talk about it)

This concept allows those who suspect they're going to be targeted to pre-prepare a plan and then set their phones or a non-tech device, so if the worst happens they can just click once to alert friends and family

(UPDATED November 20, 2011)

Don’t Panic, make a PACT

Much like preparing for an earthquake, a stroke, or any other event that could happen without warning, people who are at risk for detention could be well served by being prepared.

It will be critical to get people prepared to the point that when a crisis happens, everyone knows what to do and panic isn’t given a chance to set in. People will each have pre-assigned roles, so all they have to do is execute on them, which will be all they’re able to do in such a charged environment.

To make it easy to remember, the preparedness from pre-detention to (ideally) release, is called PACT. The steps are illustrated below.


People in high risk areas will be encouraged to attend short workshops with their loved ones on what to do in case of abduction. It will be like CPR training, something that everyone has to do at a certain age, and renew after time. It will cover things like: what to do to minimize chances of detention (if possible), having an emergency plan (like in earthquake zones, where food is stored, meet-up points are established, etc), what to do if you suspect you're about to be taken, etc. A guide such as Amjad's A to Z will be distributed and walked through.

The workshops will kick off an exercise where people will set their emergency plan and set up either their app or sms list or low tech solution (see ACT). People will also be encouraged to tell their loved ones about the plan and designate specific people to do specific things if detention should happen, because people when stressed will be more able to follow a pre-set plan then figure out who should do what (see inspiration on serious illness, below).

Where appropriate, there could be a central website that stores everything (see ( as inspiration). If people don’t have internet access community support people could help them input stuff, or a manual system could be used. The account would be secure with pseudonyms to protect everyone.

Due to security concerns, workshops may need to be ad-hoc and organized in small groups in homes or other safe places. Alternatively, depending on how safe the internet is, information may be disseminated that way.

Because of such concerns, I suggest that people set up pseudonyms from the start and never reveal true identities. When they form their support groups, everyone within them will have a protected identity.

2. ACT

An ACT is a trigger that kicks off the prepared plan. There are various types of triggers articulated below.


A. A smart phone app could leverage everything set up in the PREPARE stage or could be the place people input and update their plans, but is ultimately the tool for getting word out that something has gone wrong. This can be done in a couple of ways. Either the app has a button to press (e.g.,, or, if technically feasible, a combination of keys will trigger the app (so people don’t have to go into the phone, losing precious seconds). The combo should be unlikely to be hit accidentally but could be really easy to remember in a panic, and won’t require getting past a password. Or per Ying's suggestion, it could be triggered by a voice command. Per Marlon's suggestion, people could set the "time-out" protection on their apps so they don't accidentally send a panic note as a false alarm. As per David’s suggestion, this could also kick-off a voicemail recording, to be sent out with the picture to help people triangulate what happened. And, as per James' suggestion, this button push could also trigger an automatic wipe of anything digital and networked - the phone, questionable friend connections on social networks, even potentially a hard drive.

B. An SMS pre-set group (e.g.,, thanks Jon and Penelope) could be a lower tech way to trigger ACTion. It would be tied into the same plan developed in step 1, but would be triggered by a text message to a specific number (e.g., 1234) that would indicate something had happened. Again, if it is technically feasible for someone to send this text by pressing a combination of buttons or better yet a voice command, without having to unlock the phone, that would be ideal. This version could also trigger the voicemail recording and automatic wipe.

C. Low tech devices: something that requires no technology whatsoever, such as a bracelet that can be thrown (like a medical alert bracelet), a key fob (which has the advantage that people will notice the keys and be more likely to pick it up), a pre-filled wallet card with a ribbon attached to easily pull it out of the wallet, or a watch (such as what Pamela suggests), could be valuable for those who either don’t have phones or don’t want to leave them behind. The bracelet version could be like a charm bracelet, so various charms could be scattered to spread the message. Either they could send a signal that would be picked up, or have a code that someone could type into a website. To minimize security concerns, these low tech devices should only have codes, never linking without a secure password to an individual. So, an alert can be triggered and only if people have the right information to unlock it will they know the identity of the person affected. For instance, as per Sushmita's idea, family and friends could have special keys to unlock innocuous looking codes, to find information on where their loved ones are or a hotline number to find out more.

D. As per David’s suggestion, particularly high-risk people could develop a check-in plan, so an ACTion is triggered when they don’t show up for a regular commitment, without the need for any device.

It is important to have a variety of options, but also to keep in mind that people will likely not want to carry something that stands out. So, I'd recommend starting with the SMS group and a simple key-fob with a URL on it. But please see outstanding questions below for next steps.


Once the trigger happens, an alert is sent to everyone on the pre-set list, either through the website or through a phone tree. They can either keep track of their jobs and share news on a website such as ( with a version of the A to Z plus a secure location for friends to connect, or stay on top of things through a printed version which includes phone numbers of everyone on the list (lawyers, friends, family, colleagues, etc).


The last thing, as appropriate throughout the ordeal and after it, is for people to share information with others: other detainees’ families, media, NGOs, etc. The website supports this and encourages people to do it as they feel appropriate (never pushing anyone into sharing prematurely).


A few people have pointed out that in high-detention areas speaking about detention can be a security challenge. The last thing we want is for anyone’s security to be at risk for helping. To that end, I suggested a few ideas throughout the concept, but if anyone has other suggestions for further safety measures please do share them. This will be one of the key considerations to address in the implementation phase. Thanks to Amanda, Ally, and Sushmita for raising the security angle.

Next steps:

As there are a lot of variations in the above, we'll need to:

- answer several questions (starter list below),

- pick a target population to use for a pilot, and

- hone in on the minimum viable proposition for their needs.

Outstanding questions to be explored with experts:

- How sensitive is the timing really? Do people have mere seconds to get a message out? How much time should we allow for a “mistaken” action to be recalled? How much time can we afford to wait before the path goes cold?

- What’s the most valuable type of message to get out in a physical form? If we can’t send a message (ideal), is having a single item (e.g., keyfob) that is left behind or thrown valuable? Or is having multiple items (e.g., the bracelet that can be broken apart) better? How do we anticipate people will notice and pick up the “messages” left by these tangible things?

- What level of internet connection is available in highly affected parts of the world?

- What can be digitally wiped clean with a remote trigger? (see ACT section)

- What options do we have for increasing security without reducing the breadth of people who can use the tools? 

(UPDATE November 27, 2011)

Thanks to everyone for the comments during evaluation phase. I’d like to address a few of them:

Per Jenny and Angeliki’s comments, there will be times when technology is not available, or when people don’t have time to use it (e.g., if they’re unconscious before being detained). For these instances, and as a back-up in general, I believe it is a good idea to have a sort of “check-in” plan, either for daily use or for certain circumstances. In the case Angeliki discusses, detention is happening during protests. So, if people are putting themselves into potential situations like that, they can set up a check-in plan ahead of time, and if they don’t phone a friend afterwards to confirm they made it home safely, this triggers an alert.

Regarding technology, Vincent has found a great app that we could leverage:

Emily points out that the pre-set plan could benefit from a point person that helps organize it and reach out to people. I really like this idea as it can be up to that person to make the call as to when to start the plan in action, and to galvanize people.

Lastly, Paul mentions a really interesting challenge – getting someone to pick up a dropped off card, keyfob, etc and actually dial the number or go to the website. This is definitely going to be a design consideration in the implementation of this concept. It would be good to hear from those who’ve been in similar situations – what would make you more likely to call in? A monetary reward, perhaps knowing something about the person behind it (if that could be done in a safe way), knowing that it was good karma as the same system may work for you someday? 

What kind of resources are needed to get this idea off the ground and/or support it over time?
UPDATE November 17, 2011 The key things needed for this are: - a plan outline for potential unlawfully detained (things they need to do, setting up the ACTion that triggers their community to help, etc) - a website (which could connect people, give them information on how to make the plan, help them actually create and store their plans, allow their family members and friends to connect while they're detained, etc) ( is a nice example - a phone app (either smart phone or SMS) and a low tech alternative (either a keyfob or bracelet) Key actions that are needed: - awareness campaigns that train everyone to be prepared, much like preparing for recognizing the signs of a stroke or for an earthquake
My Virtual Team
Amjad Baiazy Pamela Badian-Pessot Christine Hendrickson Marlon Bishop Jon Menaster Kirk Soderstrom David Arnedo Penelope Madry Nicholas Capicotto Vincent Cheng James Moed Amanda Drescher Ally K Sushmita Meka Ying Qu Thanks to Paul, Angeliki, Emily, Keith, Jenny, and Vincent for their awesome comments during evaluation
How could this idea also be adapted to work in low-tech situations?
This is detailed above

Evaluation results


Technological viability: Can this concept be developed using existing technological tools and at a relatively low cost, will it work in areas with a limited technology infrastructure?

The development of this concept would require minimal technological input and/or would work in low tech areas
The development of this concept would need some specialist technological input and/or may not work in low tech areas
The development of this concept would be a large undertaking and/or may require extensive technological resource and cost

Awareness raising and information sharing: Does this concept help to raise awareness/educate people on the issues of unlawful detention?

This is a concept that, alongside being an active and functional tool, also raises awareness and educates users
This is a concept that, while being an active and functional tool, does not educate or raise awareness
This is a concept that is good at raising awareness and educating, but is not an active and functional tool

Usability: Is this concept ‘friendly’ to a diverse range of user, including those with limited literacy and technological skills?

This concept is simple to use and can be used in low literacy areas with little to no technological knowledge
This concept may necessitate the user is confident with technology, but requires only medium-level literacy skills
This is a concept that requires both a high-level of literacy and technological knowledge from the user

Maintenance and continuation: Is this a concept that could be sustained over a long period of time?

This is a concept that could be updated easily and maintained by local communities after Amnesty has left the equation
This is a concept that might need further development at a later date and/or may need Amnesty or another party’s continued involvement in order to thrive
his is a concept with a limited shelf-life and would potentially need a significant maintenance during its life-span

Scalability: Is this concept practically applicable across multiple regions without extensive adaptation; will it be pertinent to a wide group of people affected by diverse issues?

This concept is practically applicable across geographies and will be useful to a wide number of people
This concept will need to be adapted to cover different regions, but will be useful to many people
This concept will need little to no adaptation for use in different regions, but will only be useful to a limited number of people


Join the conversation and post a comment.


February 14, 2012, 21:57PM
Hi Amy - did you hear the news? Your concept is being developed and prototyped as part of this week’s Make-a-thon at IDEO London! Check this out for more info and be sure to weigh in over at our User Forums to help your idea take one step closer to reality. And hint: be sure to check out Brief #2!


December 02, 2011, 12:10PM
Amy! Congratulations on being a winning concept. We're very grateful for your contribution, it's clear you made a huge effort. The Amnesty team payed particular attention to the fact that you really built on the ideas of others through the design process. Amnesty is hoping to include many elements of your concept in future prototypes. Great work!

Vincent Cheng

December 02, 2011, 16:35PM
Congrats Amy! Certainly interested to see how Amnesty incorporates ideas from this concept in the future =).

Anne-Laure Fayard

December 02, 2011, 16:45PM
Congratulations Amy! I agree Vincent. I hope we can follow how the concept shapes / is included in future prototypes.

Paul Reader

December 03, 2011, 03:11AM
Amy, wonderful to see this make the winning list. Your concept is fundamental to successful outcomes in protecting those at risk. Like Anne-Laure and Vincent I hope we can keep in touch with Amnesty's prototyping of this and the other concepts.

Amy Bonsall

December 03, 2011, 11:41AM
Thanks Amnesty and OpenIDEO teams for the acknowledgement. I'm really excited to see where you take it. Vincent, Anne-Laure and Paul, many thanks as well for the kind notes and support along the way.

Amanda Drescher

December 03, 2011, 23:06PM
Congratulations on your winning concept Amy!! I have enjoyed watching this concept evolve and am looking forward to seeing where Amnesty takes it. Like Paul, I hope that we are able to see how Amnesty helps these concepts to evolve. I look forward to seeing yours progress...

Keith McCluskey

November 26, 2011, 16:47PM
I love the simplicity of the lo-tech notion of a bracelet or set of things that can be scattered locally to indicate that someone has been taken.

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 19:54PM
Thanks Keith!

Paul Reader

November 26, 2011, 11:10AM
Just had a few thoughts key fob, wallet card or even bracelet - could offer a free game, toy, food (not as reward - just an offer likely to be attractive to the reader) with contact details like a phone number to call or even a QR code. If the number is called (or the code is scanned) then the calling number is traced.
In all cases an offer is made to supply the game (or whatever) to the callers name and address - then we have 3 scenarios:
1 - if the calling number is the detainee's then it may be the detainee under duress, or the captor - so the offer goes to whatever conclusion and the present location of the detainee's phone is established;
2 - if the callers number is unknown but the number can be traced and the name and address (if given) correspond or if no name and address are given then the location can be cautiously investigated; and
3 - if the caller volunteers name and address and/or the fact that the object has been found then again location can be approached with caution, but with some prospect of determining where the object was found.
Fully developed such actions could be built in to the initial contingency plans and answers appropriately scripted.

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 20:00PM
Thanks, Paul. This is really interesting - and really gets to the heart of the challenge of getting someone to be proactive in a situation where they'd be set to ignore the call for help because of their own safety or potentially lack of understanding of the situation. I think a reward is one way to motivate them. I wonder if there are others? For instance, helping people to see that it is important as a community to stick together, and working with this system could help them at a time of need as well. Anyone have others?

Vincent Cheng

November 27, 2011, 20:57PM
Hmm..really interesting thoughts on motivating bystander reporting Paul! And good point about about trying to encourage communal responsibility Amy. I wonder if there's a way to 1) combine motivations, and 2) still have some vagueness if the perpetrator finds the message.

Paul Reader

November 28, 2011, 08:15AM
Thanks for the interest - I guess I was thinking about how to make responding to the lost item attractive in all situations, how to distinguish between responses and avoid any suspicion and consequences for detainees. Would love to see a group like Anne-Laure's NYPoly come up with some ideas around this based on who finds the item.(including the perpetrator).

Emily Goligoski

December 04, 2011, 03:32AM
For the low-tech concepts, it's great to see your consideration of ways loved ones might be involved starting at the planning process (vs. reacting upon detainment). Might one of the first setup steps be creating a password/alert plan among the key point people and the person who's at risk?

Emily Goligoski

November 26, 2011, 04:21AM
What I like most about this concept is that it encourages people whose locations or activities (such as political blogging) may threaten their freedom to work with others in establishing a proactive plan. I wonder if there's a way for the potential detainee to designate a point person--similar to an attorney with someone's will--who would have the full plan and be able to alert approved people?

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 19:54PM
Great point Emily. I would suggest maybe a couple of point people - as a sort of back-up system.

Jenny Jin

November 25, 2011, 04:53AM
Hi Amy!

Really well-detailed and clearly thought-out concept.

I'd be interested to see more details on the low-tech system and how a manual system could work for areas that don't have access to a website to disseminate info. What are ways for family members, and supporters to effectively get the trigger? My thoughts are that basic phones and SMS seem like the most feasible tools, but what else could work for people in perhaps geographic locations where this isn't even feasible?

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 19:53PM
Thanks for this comment, Jenny. I think you're right, there is a real challenge for people without access to technology (either normally or in that period of time). The most helpful method in that case I believe is setting a check-in schedule with friends and family, so an "alert" is triggered by lack of check-in. In terms of disseminating information, we would then have to rely on the systems in place on the ground - likely word of mouth.

Angeliki Angeletou

November 24, 2011, 01:18AM
Hi Amy,
Nice concept! I have 2 questions for you;
In Greece, protests is the main frame when unlawful detentions can happen. It is often observed that policemen use violence towards people and then they perform unlawful detention. How can this system work if somebody is dizzy/ had lost his senses before the detention?
Moreover, the first thing that is removed from a detainee is his personal belongings and his phone of course, for investigation. Therefore it seems to me that this concept relies very much on these very seconds right before the detention for which we have no clue what's really going on; has the person his senses? does the person has any time before he understand that he is detained to react? I would like your input on that.
Thank you!

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 19:50PM
Thanks for these thoughts, Angeliki. These are good challenges. I wonder if we'd need to make some modifications - perhaps when people are going to protests, they set a check in time (either with somebody else, or on their phones). If they fail to check in, then it is like sending that alert - something has gone wrong.

Vincent Cheng

November 23, 2011, 21:16PM
Hi Amy,

just came across this related Personal Safety SOS Alert With Location app launching from New Dehli and thought you'd be interested:

Amy Bonsall

November 27, 2011, 19:48PM
That's an awesome find, thanks Vincent. The technology is definitely there - it is a case of picking the right stuff.

Paul Reader

November 23, 2011, 10:37AM
From my perspective this concept is a winning strategy in which the weakest component (as described) may be the technology. But this doesn't matter because it fits very well into an integrated system so that, in conjunction with other concepts, the technological limitations are overcome. I have therefore evaluated it, having in mind some of the other concepts presented.

Amy Bonsall

November 23, 2011, 10:54AM
Thanks for the evaluation and comment yesterday, Paul. I think you're right on with the point about multiple options - both because of different levels of available tech but also because redundancy is important in case some things fail.

Ying Qu

November 22, 2011, 15:41PM
Hi, the strategy is great since it covers the whole event time line and provide alternatives to lower tech level. In my opinion, to send the SOS text on time, we could change it into voice control. We set a specific word and when trigger happens, we speak that out and the device could send it out automatically. that saves time and might be more efficient.

Amy Bonsall

November 23, 2011, 11:01AM
Love this idea, incorporated it into the concept!

Lydia Howland

November 21, 2011, 20:41PM
I think this is a terrific idea Amy - simple, memorable and (hopefully) extremely effective. I really like the idea of Amnesty promoting something proactive and preventative too. Could see the Foreign Office being supportive of an initiative like this too...

Paul Reader

November 21, 2011, 10:54AM
I think this is a wonderful concept Amy.
Your basic premise is simple and straightforward.
The various ways in which it could be adapted are both wide-ranging and feasible - at the same time because the system is based on preparedness the development of triggers in both high and low tech situations can be tailored to circumstances. (This was a little why I contributed a concept based on WWII resistance techniques)

It has also occurred to me that multi-preparedness and multiple triggers may be appropriate. For example the Universal Emergency Number concept could have message or number forwarding triggered by calls from pre-registered numbers as a fallback.- they may never be needed but could be there just in case.

Amanda's point about the dropped then found object is valid but hopefully will generate some very creative thinking about what might work. I know it's not relevant to low tech situations but my mind goes back to the Social Impact Challenge and Haiyan's concept for QR codes that in this case (if scanned) would be a secondary trigger initiated by anyone (even a captor).

Sorry for being so late in my support but I hope the evaluation questions give me the opportunity to reinforce my enthusiasm for this concept.

Saeed Falahi

November 20, 2011, 20:35PM
This is undoubtedly a good idea. It is very useful in all aspects because of its simplicity.

Ally Krupar

November 20, 2011, 11:17AM
Hi Amy,

I'd like to echo the previous statements and thank you for your insightful idea. A preemptive strategy for people at risk of disappearance or detention is a much needed tool in human rights activism.

I'd like to ask more about the security and confidentiality protections in PACT. Many human rights activists and their families face constant threats, particularly relating to their work and sensitization or awareness raising materials, let alone phone or internet content. How do you plan to get around these security issues in order to get the word out about PACT?

Amy Bonsall

November 20, 2011, 13:34PM
Thanks for the prompt Ally. I just sent a note out on twitter to gather ideas. Any pointers you have to things that have worked well in the past would be helpful as well.

Ally Krupar

November 22, 2011, 09:11AM
That's exactly why I asked, I can't think of any truly secure ways of organizing human rights activists and others at high risk of unlawful detention, disappearance or extrajudicial killing. Any community such as PACT would seem to need a "cover" so that if an individual is found by a repressive regime to be on a website, or carrying a bracelet, or linked on their phone, they would have a plausible explanation of what PACT is, other than a messaging and early warning tool that could potentially implicate their government. It may sound conspiratorial but it is a reality for many human rights activists worldwide. Also the interest of security for family members. If PACT links human rights activists and their families to a larger community of activists, that in itself can be a security risk. I could imagine though, a series of secure capacity building workshops that highlight some of the concerns of PACT and direct human rights activists to particular sources, again with the caveat that there was no written information or recording devices in the area and the implementing organization had a clean reputation in the relevant repressive country. Just some thoughts, I know you're all but through refining, but a great idea and one that could truly impact the human rights community worldwide!

Amy Bonsall

November 23, 2011, 10:52AM
Thanks for the background, Ally. I think your point about a cover is a very interesting one - and worth considering how to build it in if we take it to implementation.

Amanda Drescher

November 19, 2011, 18:32PM
Hi Amy, finally had a chance to look over your update and it looks great! I love all of the added visuals, it's really helped me to get a feel for your concept.

The question I have is in terms of the low tech solutions. This seems to be an option only if people don't have access to the higher tech solutions. I think the imperative question here is WHY wouldn't they have access to the higher tech solutions? If it has something to do with government restrictions, or poverty-ridden areas, etc., then I see this being a problem for the low tech solution. The reason is because whoever finds the physical object left behind is likely to face the same technology restrictions as the person detained. So, once they have found the object, how will they get the word out? Maybe you have some ideas in mind that could address this concern? Overall though, very well argued concept!

Amy Bonsall

November 20, 2011, 20:53PM
Thanks Amanda. Very much appreciated. I updated the concept with some thoughts on this and think it will be a critical aspect of getting implementation right

LiSuan Poh

November 22, 2011, 14:41PM
I write from one personal experience where my sister was detained and ( we, there was an enormous group of people ) didn't know where they were nor what they were going to be charged with, approx 15 yrs ago. Low tech in this case should include SMS type solution. During the first couple days of being detained, family and friends would be simply too exhausted as they would be focused on going to place to place finding out what has happened. Most people have phones even in remote areas and what we call 3 rd world have some sort of gsm based phones or access to one. Whatever technology solution that is used, should include gsm or texting as support strategy to friends or family members. SMS based push messages can mask senders too.

sushmita meka

November 19, 2011, 18:13PM
I love this idea, most especially for its simplicity. In thinking about the prepare and talk components, I'd love to see some discussion on organizing and disseminating information safely in particularly oppressive regimes.

In environments in which eyes and ears are pervasive or gatherings of a handful of people are considered political threats, how do people currently get messages out to trusted networks? Could these channels be used to spread the word about the PACT process?

Amy Bonsall

November 20, 2011, 13:35PM
Thanks for the comment, Sushmita. You raise a great point about safe dissemination of info. I sent a twitter request to see if we can find ideas. If you see anything pls send my way

Amy Bonsall

November 20, 2011, 20:52PM
I updated this to add a few thoughts - any other ideas you have welcome!

sushmita meka

November 20, 2011, 21:22PM
Those look great and actually along the lines of what I was thinking! In these situations, underground networks could be a safe way to disseminate information safely.

A friend told me about a tactic she's heard used in some instances. People could be given cards to put in their wallets -- the cards could have statistics on them that seem innocuous if anyone were to find them. However, any numbers associated with the statistics could actually form a hotline number that could be called in emergency situations. This could be given to friends and family members so that they can safely have access to emergency resources. Hope this helps!

Amy Bonsall

November 20, 2011, 21:56PM
Thanks! I just updated the post with more details as per your suggestion. Great idea.

James Moed

November 18, 2011, 12:18PM
One more thing - I like this because, correct or not, I typically think of Amnesty as only helping people once they're already screwed. The idea that Amnesty is protecting you in advance is a great shift.

Amy Bonsall

November 19, 2011, 17:15PM
Great point, interesting angle for Amnesty to consider

Emily Goligoski

December 04, 2011, 03:40AM
Agree with James--being known to offer proactive planning tools (as compared to only being seen as available in case of emergency) would be a very meaningful perception shift.

James Moed

November 18, 2011, 12:16PM
Love this idea.. The app is great for triggering a human network. I wonder if it's possible for the panic button to also trigger an automatic deletion/protection of the detainees DIGITAL footprint.. could it automatically:
-Change passwords?
-un-friend/un-link certain people?
-encrypt/delete harddrives?

Amy Bonsall

November 19, 2011, 17:14PM
Thanks James, great idea! I incorporated it into the concept

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:12PM
Thanks to everyone for the thoughts. I just wrote a revised concept and put in a bunch of pictures. Please take a look and let me know if I've missed anything (or anyone). Really grateful for the help! Also, I tweeted about it so if I missed your twitter handle let me know what it is.

David Arnedo

November 17, 2011, 19:22PM
Amy this looks fantastic! Great job putting everything together, and I love the name! I´m proud to be part of this concept. Thank you for the work you did in creating and managing all these great ideas.

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:29PM
Thanks David, really appreciate your help. And thanks for the vote of confidence on the name - I had many sad attempts before I landed on that, so glad it feels right.

Meena Kadri

November 17, 2011, 21:05PM
It's been so exciting to observe conversations and builds evolve on this! Fab collaboration, guys – with a hat tip to Amy for pulling it all together with updates.

David Arnedo

November 17, 2011, 13:03PM
Ive been thinking about this and have gotten some inspiration from the cheesy action movie "Taken" and another concept "Universal Security Number"(

I believe it would be interesting to use phones as a "black box" device. A number is put on speed dial and when called activates a voice mail inbox (so it doesn't have to be an app for costly smartphones). That way a person can record the moments before his arrest.

So the training part would teach people in risk to make this call when being detained, state their name and current location and ask the authorities to read him his rights and state the reason for the arrest (I'm not a law genius but it sounds like this would prove whether or not the arrest itself is unlawful and might even serve in a possible court hearing).

The great thing about it is that the tech is simple and the recorded conversation can get the investigation kick-started if the person being detained knows what to say. So its a trigger for families, proves the person is being arrested without a stated reason and the collection of all these voicemails would even make a haunting message to raise awareness....

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:12PM
Thanks David, I noted this in the concept. Take a look and see if I've captured it correctly

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:13PM
Thanks David. I incorporated this into the concept. Take a look and see if I captured it correctly.

Nicholas Capicotto

November 17, 2011, 05:19AM
I really believe this idea has some ground to work. Since cell phones and similar devices are everywhere it would be silly not to incorporate some type off app into them. This is undeniably a great medium to introduce this type of alert system.

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:14PM
Thanks, Nicholas!

David Arnedo

November 15, 2011, 00:15AM
Hi Amy, the idea is pretty functional and well formed. My only addition would be to include more low-tech solutions into the mix. Since we are considering a training phase it would be interesting to add a much simpler (yet maybe slower) type of trigger.
People that are in danger of detention must develop set time periods to communicate with friends and family. If groups establish minimum "check-in times" they can notice when a person is missing much quicker. Keeping information about trips and common schedules whenever possible will always help determine the place and time of abduction.
Its as simple as this example:
"Its Tuesday and Fred has not come around to my house, i know that on Mondays he works at point A until 2:30 and he always tells Bob when he heads out to point B where he checks in with Sara. He takes this, this and this street. I go and ask Bob and Sara and figure out that he vanished at some point between A and B after 2:30"
A tightly informed network of friends is much less vulnerable.

Thanks for your work :)

Amy Bonsall

November 15, 2011, 14:36PM
Thanks for the background David, very helpful. I'll update it with some low tech ways for people to stay in touch and keep an eye on each other. What I like about that is that there is an "automatic" trigger if people fail to show up, so it is a back-up if people can't proactively push the "trigger button" (be it high tech or low).

Penelope Madry

November 15, 2011, 15:42PM
I feel like this and the UN Global Pulse Project could be linked. I think the key is to identify the types of people who would need this:
- NGO employee or foreign national working in a country that has unrest
- person who is protesting or some other type of activity
- anyone else?
The NGO employee or other type of worker could have an account in a centralized database with their employer or government, and have an app on their smart phone that would allow them with one click of a button to alert their employer that they have been detained. Additionally, they could set up a set interval of time in which they have to regularly check in.

The person who is protesting is a bit more difficult to capture. You would need to consider where they are (for example a developed nation or a nation with poor infrastructure), the type of technology they have access to (basic cell phone with no GPS but does have SMS, Internet, etc), and the nature of the government (for example various U.S. municipal governments responding to Occupy Wall Street protests versus Syria responding to protesters). Perhaps in situations where most of the public has access to smart phones, an NGO could host a solution like the one I describe above for NGO employees, but host it for the general public of a particular location.

Another idea is you could use something like InSTEDD's Nuntium, which is a system that sends and receives messages from Twitter, Skype, email, SMS, and aggregates all this information in one place. It is a bit buggy at the moment, but it is open source so that could be resolved. Then you could set up a campaign with an SMS number, Twitter handle, Skype ID that are all similar and publicize them to the public. And, if a person doesn't have access to technology or are worried they are going to have their cell phone confiscated, if they prepare before a protest by writing their name and the SMS number or the Twitter handle on a piece of paper, they could drop that paper at the time of arrest.

I hope this made sense. I like this idea and I think it has potential.

Penelope Madry

November 15, 2011, 15:47PM
Sorry, I like *your* idea because I think it has a lot of potential!

David Arnedo

November 15, 2011, 20:44PM
Thanks for the feedback, I think we should follow through on what Penelope said and attempt to classify users, their needs, and the possible solution for each. I am going to research the UN global pulse project further and look for tie-ins

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:16PM
Awesome builds guys. Agreed re the different users - I do think we'll need different options for people in different situations. I've tried to incorporate a variety in the concept, but we'll need to pick a pilot group to start with.

Jon Menaster

November 14, 2011, 17:36PM
One key element of this idea would be making it useful for non-smartphone users, which make up quite a large portion of cell phone owners in the developing world. In terms of creating a group of people and quickly getting sms messages out to them, there is a great open source group communications tool called GeoChat ( that enables people to quickly form teams and send messages to each other across platforms. It may not be perfectly prepared for this usage, but since it is open source the code can be taken and modified for this idea. For more information on GeoChat (I am not affiliated with them in any way), see the wiki here:

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:16PM
Thanks Jon - I put this app in the concept as inspiration for the build

Marlon Bishop

November 11, 2011, 23:25PM
I think it's a good idea. You don't even need a new application, because with the camera phone version of this idea, which should just be a JPG, already has the time, date, GPS metadata, and, of course an image of what happened at the time. (photo would be faster to upload than a video). A special button would be pressed to take this photo, the photo would get emailed or tweeted as a predetermined post, with a subject line of "Help, I've been captured". The post would go into a holding queue on an open source server that is replicated in multiple legal jurisdictions. You could set a timeout to between 6 to 24 hours. If you don't cancel the timeout, then the post gets sent. Thus the mobile phone version of this idea should simply be a feature that is standard on every camera application being produced. It would be very cheap for companies to implement and smart for them to appear socially engaged. All they need to do is put a big button somewhere in their app, the user, would be wise to keep their phone camera available anyway. All we would need to do is lobby the camera application developers to bind together and create a standard. The server side of the implementation would be the only thing to incur ongoing cost after that. With some lobbying we might even get twitter to provide a service like this for free.

The card version of the idea could just tell the user to throw the card on the ground, or give it to someone else, before, or as they are being rendered.

Cards are easily picked up or confiscated however. An even better way would be to create a "confetti bomb" version. You pull a string, and a bunch of pieces of thin paper blast out and carried into the wind with your Name, a URL, a phone number, and some instructions. When you order your personal confetti bomb, you place all your information into a secure database, and you determine who gets notified in the case someone accesses your URL.

Amy Bonsall

November 13, 2011, 20:17PM
Love these builds, Marlon. I'd lower the timeout to more like 15 minutes or so, just to allow for mistakes but to get it out quickly enough to not let the trail go cold. Although if there are any experts out there I'd love to get input on the timings required.

Building on Pamela's comment (below), that people often don't have time to pull something out of a wallet, I wonder if the low-tech version is simply a piece of ribbon that hangs out of the wallet (or pocket), and you pull it like a parachute release when you need it.

Back to the app, given the lack of time to do anything, I wonder if you could make it a fast action somehow. Maybe holding two different buttons on the phone automatically takes a picture, without having to go into an app.

Marlon Bishop

November 14, 2011, 20:28PM
You're right but there's a balance between preventing false alarms and speedy access. I think most people in political situations of the sort they are reasonably aware of, are going to need to know about having their phones ready, to fire photos or press this button. That much is part of an awareness campaign that has to go along.

I like the confetti bomb version because it is just so confounding a mess to clean up for abusive authorities, drawing even more attention. The problem with it is, as with a can of pepper spray, you have to remember to bring it. I don't think you can ever create a fool proof anti-kidnapping device, unless we want voice activated brain implants. The goal is something cheap and viral, and requires a little bit of awareness training

Vincent Cheng

November 15, 2011, 16:40PM
Love the confetti bomb idea Marlon, and smart to point out the metadata often already contained within image files.

Also, I think you're spot on about the need to balance between easy/speedy access & too many false alarms that could be overwhelming (whether it's through a mechanism on the user end, timeouts, or filtering/verification on the receiving end). This is a concern that is important to consider for some of the other concepts in this challenge as well.


November 11, 2011, 18:07PM
Hi Amy, thank you for your simple and compelling idea to help people create alerts when something is wrong. The expert panel loved the simplicity of your concept. They’re curious to how you might develop this as either an app or a physical object? What if you didn’t have smart phones available. Could this be SMS enabled? Could this be a key fob? An accessory? How do you envision this looking? Also, how would you connect this to resources for the supporters such as Amjad’s A-Z guide?

Amy Bonsall

November 14, 2011, 13:35PM
Thanks guys. I added some comments above based on Marlon's comments.

I think we'd want to find a way to make it take mere seconds to activate. For instance an SMS unique code that when sent triggers an alert. On a smartphone, perhaps the same code could also trigger a picture being taken.

Though, my preference would be that you wouldn't have to enter the phone at all, but rather push a combination of buttons (unlikely to be pushed simultaneously by accident) to trigger an action. Maybe it is your pin entered twice, or something that people can easily remember when in a stressful situation.

Kirk Soderstrom

November 11, 2011, 04:40AM
It is great when a concept leverages current technologies and habits. Smart phones could easily accomodate this function, particularly with GPS enabled. The phone becomes an eye-witness.

I am pondering the education and awareness factor...

Amy Bonsall

November 17, 2011, 19:17PM
Thanks Kirk. I put in a few thoughts, see above. I'd love any builds you have.

Pamela Badian-Pessot

November 07, 2011, 18:15PM
The wallet cards are a great idea, but is there a way to make it easier to get out? When we worked on our first prototype we noticed that people likely wouldn't have much time to find something in a wallet or purse.

Amy Bonsall

November 08, 2011, 23:26PM
Ah, interesting. It seems like there is a balance between something lots of people will have with them and something they have front and center. Maybe it is about having a few options for people to choose from.

Christine Hendrickson

November 06, 2011, 22:10PM
Hi Amy, I love this idea. What if we connected this with Amjad's A-Z Guide for Families? That way, once families were notified they had a set list of actions to take immediately.

Amy Bonsall

November 06, 2011, 22:21PM
Great idea Christine. I just updated the concept to refer to both of Amjad's concepts, as all fit well together.
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