Demonstrators raise their fists in the air near the White House, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

As millions show up to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died at the hands of police, developers have created apps to aid protestors while other established resources, like police-scanners, have surged in popularity. 

The smartphone app Citizen uses police-scanner communication to notify users of what’s happening near them, from protests to police movements and emergencies. App developers have also been scrambling to build tools that let protestors “scrub hidden metadata” from photos and blur faces to “prevent facial recognition systems from identifying protestors.”  One developer who created a police scanner app more than 10 years ago announced he would donate proceeds to antiracist groups after the app skyrocketed in popularity

Protestors are also taking advantage of encrypted messaging apps in the event their phones are exposed to law enforcement surveillance. Signal and WhatsApp have both been widely used for this purpose. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have also been utilized as avenues to communicate, organize, and document protests. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Twitter has a record-breaking week as users looked for news of protests and COVID-19 – TechCrunch – 6/4/2020
Civil unrest due to the nationwide George Floyd protests drove Twitter to see a record number of new installs this week, according to data from two app store intelligence firms, Apptopia and Sensor Tower.

Signal app downloads spike as US protesters seek message encryption – Quartz – 6/4/2020
The spike in downloads coincides with calls from Twitter users and privacy-focused organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, urging American protesters to communicate with each other with encrypted apps like Signal. Encryption jumbles the content of a message while it’s being transmitted from the sender to the recipient, allowing users to chat with less risk that their conversation will be intercepted and monitored by a third party.

Thousands of People Are Monitoring Police Scanners During the George Floyd Protests – Vice – 6/1/2020
The number of users of an app which lets people listen in to police radio broadcasts across the country is nearly doubling everyday during the protests, according to its developer.

Police Are Coming For Protestors’ Cell Phones — Here’s How To Protect Your Information – Refinery 29 – 6/5/2020
There are two forms of police surveillance of devices at protests. One is all the data police can access in the event someone is arrested, detained, or have property confiscated. The other includes the surveillance of text messages, location, and other data.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Herb Scribner on Twitter, 6/8/20: In the past week, about 620,000 first-time users in the U.S. downloaded Citizen on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower via @WSJ

Bowdeya Tweh on Twitter, 6/8/20: Millions of Americans have used social media to understand and communicate about the killing of George Floyd. But for many of those tracking protests, the go-to online tool has been Citizen, an upstart smartphone app. via @SebasAHerrera

Steven Bertoni on Twitter, 6/8/20: While only operating in 18 cities, Safety app @CitizenApp surged to the top #Apple news app, ahead of #Twitter, #Reddit, #CNN and everyone else during the #GeorgeFloydProtests. Added 600k plus users in less than a week via @forbes

Jennifer Jolly #techish on Twitter, 6/8/20: Check out the app that wipes location/metadata and blurs faces in a few seconds: My latest for @usatodaytech – Want to participate in a protest? You may want to do this with your tech before you go via @usatoday

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