Written by By Max Sams, CNN
Though it may still be far from perfect, a program able to tell how safe it is to walk down the street could soon be rolled out worldwide.
The online tool was released last week and is being called a game-changer for online safety, after it proved effective in controlling an 88% increase in stalking behaviour in just two months, French security company Cardiac Travics told CNN.
“What’s important is you can say ‘I might have been victims of stalking, I may have had an affair because of being stalked,’ or ‘I might have just moved around my house in random ways because I’m being stalked,’ ” said Cardiac Travics Managing Director Christian Theobald.
He added that it was able to use a variety of scenarios to calculate how safe the user is in the street, as well as monitoring contacts.
The university and defense industry are testing out the tool, named Safe Street, for use worldwide and hope that it will help make streets safer for pedestrians.
According to the European Federation for Industry and the Public Sector (EFIP), nearly 3 million men and women in the EU suffer from stalking and harassment every year.
The tool could help prevent crimes. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Still, as pioneering ground as the product is, it falls short of “real time” tracking of a user’s movements.
“It’s not just for people who are normally visible; it’s also for people who are unknown and less obvious because there’s no physical presence,” Theobald explained.
Intuition to trust
One of the program’s proponents, Dr. Sebastien Goedlet, believes the instrument could ultimately help combat crimes, like kidnapping and high-value heists.
“Currently, there are technologies that help us to map out in real time what’s going on but what we are missing is the intuition for what the people are thinking and feeling in real time,” said Goedlet, a researcher at UPV/EHU’s Audubon Institute.
Safe Street was developed in partnership with the EFPI. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Goedlet launched the project in October 2015. It is currently designed for use on an Android device but has a device-agnostic principle, allowing it to be integrated into many computer operating systems.
At the time of its release, the app also came under fire by online safety group Cyber Sense, which is still seeking clarification from the developers as to the extent of the ‘omni-directional’ data and whether it can be shared with law enforcement agencies.
Goedlet — who has never encountered stalkers himself — stressed that Safe Street was never designed to trigger warnings or to alert the recipient if they were being followed.
Trail of broken promises
This is not the first time that security firms have sought to protect citizens from the risk of being stalked.
Of the estimated 17 million domestic and workplace stalkings in the US each year, there were more than 72,000 convictions between 2004 and 2015, according to the state of California.
NPD Group, a consumer research and information company, put the cost to employers of workplace stalking at $2 billion a year, a figure that it describes as more than the cost of rape, robbery and homicide.
In October, reports on the Ghostnet, a program created by German researchers that allowed hackers to monitor people’s activity on the Internet for suspicious behavior, prompted an unprecedented global outcry.
Ghostnet was likened to a global computer spy network. Credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
EFPI, a prominent Europe-wide behavioral analytics trade association, called Ghostnet’s tactics “insane” while EU Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding promised to fight any use of such surveillance in Europe.
“The bullying and surveillance methods of our electronic age make you question if technology can stop violence in all its forms and
All the same, Goedlet is adamant that Safe Street has “nothing to do with surveillance,” dismissing such concerns.
“We have learned to accept that people of all ages have habits and some behavior that can be reported,” Goedlet said.