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'SnapScouts' Wants Kids to Become Vigilante Crime Dogs, But Not Really

snapscouts app for androidWhat happens when location-based technology meets fear-based politics? We're not entirely sure, but based on what we've seen from a new app that claims to merge the two, we're not sure we really want to find out, either.

Offering the opportunity to "earn tons of cool badges," 'SnapScouts' is a location-based app for Android that encourages users to take photos of people engaging in "suspicious activity" --all in an effort to make "reporting a potential crime fun and easy!" As DownloadSquad points out, it's easy to take the app seriously at first glance, and it's even easier to be terrified at the prospect of an army of children snapping photos of shady neighbors in the name of points and badges. Once you get past the initial shock, though, it quickly becomes clear that the entire thing's a hoax. The patriotism is just too hyperbolic ("find out who can be the best American"), the language is overtly paranoid, ("If you see someone who doesn't belong, Snap it! Not sure if someone or something is suspicious? Snap it anyway!"), and the overall concept is simply too Orwellian (and too illegal) to be real.

So, 'SnapScouts' may be nothing more than a clever joke, but are we that far away from a world in which location-based vigilante justice is a reality? We've already seen the horrific consequences of online human flesh searches in China, where an informal and virtual collective form of justice has become something of a scary social norm. Given the xenophobic overtones that have recently characterized the debate on U.S. immigration policy, and the individualist, anti-government fervor of the Tea Party movement, it's not entirely unreasonable to think that we may see a day when technology meets fear politics. By giving us an exaggerated rendering of what that world may become, 'SnapScouts' forces us to consider what might happen when unbridled technology erodes civil liberties -- and how we can make sure it never happens. [From: DownloadSquad and Wired]

Tags: android, androidapp, app, cellphone, crime, Crimewatch, CrowdSourcing, kids, privacy, satire, smartphone, snapscouts, top, vigilante, web

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