Activist app has sinister potential

20 Sep 2011

The US State Department is backing a mobile app that allows all details to be wiped from your mobile phone with a single touch.

In the Clear was developed by, a non-profit firm based in the US that won State Department funding to develop the app, and has already been deployed informally among rebelling activists in Syria ahead of an official launch this month.

The app also includes an alert function that can send a pre-defined text message to comrades along with the users location, the LA Times reports.

While I initially set about writing about what a good thing the application is, there’s a couple of points that stick in the throat a little. First and foremost of which is the US government’s involvement. The app could signal a clear shift in strategy from the country away from arming rebels with guns and missiles, to seeking to undermine foreign governments via wireless communications.

A cynic might suggest the deployment of underhand tactics by the US is nothing new, but the information coming out of Libya regarding the sneaky dealings the UK had with its former regime leave a Brit with little solid ground to make such an argument from.

The second sticking point is quite simply that the app might not be the force for good it at first seems. Imagine if key intelligence is lost as a result of its creation – not just on terrorism, but regular everyday crimes like murder and robbery.

I like the idea of this app and its good intentions, but when you think about it the service actually has the potential to be quite sinister.

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