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Panic Button: App Launched for Human Rights Impact

Amnesty, global developers, advisors & field testers have joined forces on the Panic Button website + app.

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Amnesty International's Panic Button app enables individuals at risk of being arrested or abducted to discretely send SMS alerts with their location to their trusted contacts. It evolved from our OpenIDEO Amnesty Challenge and has since been developed further with the help of global developers, advisors and field testers. After much committed, human-centered refinement, Amnesty have launched the Panic Button website which features an open source Android app in public beta.

With the app installed, users are able to simply press their phone’s power button to send an alert to one of three of their pre-specified contacts. It’s available in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Arabic – and was recently beta-tested by Amnesty volunteers in 17 countries on the back of earlier development and field testing.

"...Panic Button really owes everything to the open community of people who’ve invested their time in its design and development. The concept itself was born with the Amnesty International OpenIDEO challenge, in which more than 300 designs were put forward about how technology might play a role in helping to protect people at risk of being unlawfully detained, abducted or tortured. Since then we’ve been very fortunate to have the input from great teams of developers...

… What makes it such a useful tool is the design thinking that has gone into making it relevant for activists, with attention focused on the kinds of threats that are commonly faced."

– Tanya O-Carroll, Technology & Human Rights Office, Amnesty 

A map of countries where Panic Button was tested earlier in the East and Horn of Africa

The app has been tested in Brazil, Sudan and the Philippines and beyond. Sudanese human rights activist, Ibrahim Alsafi, recently met with fellow activists in Khartoum who had been released from detention over protests. 

"Unlawful detention happens every day in our country. We do our best to release those who have been detained by influencing the government, by protesting and by doing whatever we can... 

... I received an invitation from Amnesty International to meet the Panic Button team – and I felt finally that someone is doing something about it. It was so easy to learn how the app works. Everyone who might face danger in their work needs to have the application on his or her phone: activists, human rights defenders, students, lawyers, everyone back home in Sudan must have it. Now we are giving Panic Button trainings to activists within the student movement in Sudan. I hope this will help to ensure we do not miss future cases of unlawful detention and that we can respond to help more people."

Check out more global feedback from Panic Button beta testers

Read an in-depth interview with Amnesty International’s Tanya O-Carroll on Forbes:  Inside Amnesty's Panic Button App: Simple Technology, Serious Impact For Activists


The design and development of Panic Button is the result of much collective time and energy from across the globe. Kudos to our collaborative OpenIDEO community which has played a part in this significant step towards global impact to support human rights.


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We really need some innovations like this. The panic button is a very useful thing especially when we are in trouble. The mobile panic button is a personal security alert system that allows you to get help no matter where you are.

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Great to see this project come to fruition. Well done guys!

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I like it.

And... I see a need for a similar app - for people who learn about others' very precarious situations to send reports to Amnesty directly; eg:

We just learned about the plight of many young Chinese women migrants, as they try to move from rural parts of China to cities, so they can work & send money home to their families.

The author of "Northern Girls" (which documents such plights) was one of these women & she saw others, in similar situations or worse. Her book is reportedly very popular, in China - being read by both poorer & "higher class" people.

Just in case Amnesty don't already know about these women, I'd say they need to read the book (available on, which may also be known as: "To Survive" in some places.

To make us shudder in horror, the author admits, that she's left out even =worse= examples of what someof the women migrants went through...

Are you listening, Amnesty? :-/

(The English translation was nominated for the 2012 Booker Prize, according to 2 academics, who co-authored "Feminist Writers in Post-Socialist China" (or similar title). They say the migrant author has written 5 otr 6 other books, & is now a recognized Chinese author.)

Perhaps the woman should be nominated for a Nobel Prize, as her work might bring action to improve the situation for other women migrants, in China.