The Citizen App: A Questionable Idea That Could Go Horribly Wrong

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Author of Zombie Choices and The Faithful Prepper

Here in America, we already have facial recognition cameras, traffic cameras, and police cameras watching us 24/7. The Daily Mail reports security cameras record the typical American 238 times a week. And should something terrible happen, such as a fire, burglary, or murder, it’s only a matter of time before news agencies show up with their cameras.

Now, add civilians to the mix, spending all day with the sole goal of filming local events. Imagine your family members or co-workers running off to crime scenes or horrific car accidents at the urging of an app on their phone. 

Meet the Citizen App

Citizen relaunched the app (first launched as Vigilante and quickly removed from the Apple App store over safety concerns) in 2020. Citizen recruits people in select cities to keep their phones at the ready should there be an emergency alert sent out by the app. Should an alert be sent, the user gets to the scene as quickly as possible and begins filming. Citizen pays $200 a day to these “field team members.” 

According to Citizen, this helps to make for a safer community. Other app users will now have live intel on events happening around them and make appropriate safety decisions. Citizen uses radio antennas to monitor the 911 communications in several major cities. As of this writing, there are over 60 cities covered, including:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Baltimore
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Detroit
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami-Dade County
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • New York City
  • San Diego
  • Tucson

Could the Citizen App be beneficial?

The app is ever-growing in popularity as well, with over 7 million users. The Citizen app will only prove to be more effective as time goes on. It has to have a broad user base, or else the whole thing crumbles. It doesn’t do too much good if only three people in America are helping to give you real-time video footage.

Outside of alerting you of potential danger, there seem to be some additional benefits to the Citizen app. According to a quote on Citizen’s website by an NYC trauma surgeon, “Because Citizen alerted me about a medical emergency near the hospital where I work, I was able to prepare an operating room more than 20 minutes before EMS called us about the patient. We saved his life because we had that extra time from Citizen. Those minutes matter.” 

The Citizen app helped find an abducted boy in Manhattan by alerting all its users of the abduction. Citizen users throughout the city were able to keep watch of whether or not the child was moving through their location. The end result was a rescued child because of people who were willing to step in and help.

Does the Citizen App entice people to run into dangerous situations? 

One of the chief concerns raised regarding the Citizen app is that it causes people to run to the site of danger. In the event of a stabbing, explosion, or some other hazardous situation, people could be putting their very lives in danger. Of course, paramedics, firefighters, first responders, and others run into harm’s way daily. However, it’s hard to argue this is a good idea for the lone college girl looking to make some extra money on the side.

Perhaps the Citizen app is improving the safety of the people who are just watching the video footage. But what about the cameraman? If the “field team member” is in the vicinity of the event anyway – let’s say the app user’s apartment is across the street from the house fire – they can provide footage from the safety of their home.

What if the app causes the accusation of innocent people?

That is precisely what happened earlier this year. In May, Police detained a Los Angeles man after the Citizen app reported him as an arson suspect. Citizen offered a $30000 reward for the information leading to his arrest and broadcast a photo of him to a reported 861,000 viewers.

Authorities found the man innocent and released him.

Former employees of Citizen believe the app is returning to its Vigilante days. One former employee said a lack of in-depth vetting caused him to doubt the app’s accuracy. He also had this to say:

“It fuels public insanity and fear,” the former employee said. “The effect of Citizen is to make everybody afraid in a community. I’m not a supporter. I tell people that.” [source]

Do you want to be watched and monitored 24/7?

To use the Citizen app, you have to permit them to see your location. Doing so enables the app to know what sources of danger may be near you right at the moment. That may be a source of contention for some people, wouldn’t you agree? 

Do you like the idea of a company knowing where you’re at 24/7?

Citizen also offers Covid surveillance with a feature titled SafeTrace. Using the Bluetooth capabilities of your phone, Citizen can then monitor whether or not you’ve come into proximity with somebody diagnosed with COVID. If you were exposed, Citizen will then alert you, tell you to isolate, and ship you a COVID test you administer to yourself at home.

Wait, that’s not all.

If you diagnose as positive, Citizen then alerts all other users who came into contact with you. In addition to this, Citizen has a related feature called SafePass, a shareable COVID health summary. Within your SafePass, you can tell others how you feel, whether you’ve had any known exposures, and what the results of your recent COVID test are. 

Is the Citizen App creating good citizens or snitches?

The idea of somebody ‘discreetly’ listening in on your phone’s microphone as you go about your daily business seems a bit invasive. We already live in a world surrounded by cameras. This app would add countless more. If you end up in a fender bender, do you like the idea of having your situation broadcast to anyone who wants to look? Does the thought of paid snitches field team members watching and recording you and then putting that information out there for all to see appeal to you? 

So, is Citizen in your favor? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to,,,,, and Along with being a freelance writer he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • I’ve got a couple of things to say about this. First, are all of us really under as close surveillance as people say we are? If so, then why are there ever unsolved crimes and missing persons? A couple of years ago, I lived in Philadelphia (and thank God I’m out of that hellhole). At that time, a young girl (perhaps 5 years old) turned up missing in NJ, a suspected kidnapping. To my knowledge, she’s still missing. Where was the surveillance video? Sure, in cities, especially major cities, we’re likely watched like crazy. But I’d bet there are plenty of holes in the system, it’s just a matter of figuring out where those holes are.

    Second, why is there an app for this? Everybody and their mother already has a cell phone with a camera and already posts thousands of hours of video of newsworthy events to social media all the time. See the riots last summer for example. I’m not so sure there’s even a need for this app.

    Do I support 24/7 surveillance? Hell, no. However, I don’t expect privacy once I walk out my front door.

    • Years ago, I considered becoming a news photographer. Part of that training were two questions: what pictures are legal to take? How can I use those pictures?

      Basically, if anything can be seen from the street (sidewalk), the picture or video can be taken.

      Can I use the picture? That is much more restricted. Unless I have written permission of the subject in the picture, the image cannot be used for commercial purposes. If it is of a newsworthy event, the picture can be used, but only for reporting on the newsworthy event. It cannot be used for advertising or other commercial uses. Advertising can include even a picture taken on the street, then printed on the front of a magazine to advertise an article inside the magazine.

      Legally, you can’t expect privacy the moment you step outside your front door.

    • Surveillance isn’t in every place – aka more to protect, more surveillance. OnStar and other similar technologies track you in your car. Cell phone (non-burner) – location services, “tell cool things nearby”, phone being on tracks you.

      You load it via the app, no taking it back. And just because you record on your phone doesn’t mean your willing to share.

      • Selena: even a “burner phone” can be tracked. The cell phone companies need to track it in order for it to take and make calls. See my comments below.

        Secondly, the phone companies record which numbers a “burner phone” calls, and those can be tracked. The numbers are recorded in order to keep a connection going as the phones move from one cell to another. The greatest anonymity is when it calls only other “burner phones”.

        The only way to keep from being tracked by a cell phone company is not to use a cell phone at all.

        • R.O. I saw something recently about a “freedom phone” and went to their website which is supposed to avoid all of the above, but from what you just said that is not technically a possibility. If you have any info about that please share.

  • My gut feeling is that this app is an overall Negative. I’m sure there are surveillance holes, at least for now, but as it grows those holes will be filled in. We seem to be turning into quite the surveillance state, 4A be damned, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s bad enough that government actors and LEO have Pegasus to abuse, now citizens can easily snitch on things they don’t like about their neighbors. IMO this will serve only to tear us apart, not unify. The Stasi and other totalitarian police units would be proud!

    A great movie about such an app is called The Circle. I think it was on Netflix but might be available on other platforms. Just because I’m not up to anything doesn’t mean I want to be watched all day!

  • The thought that y’all want to live in such places bothers me more than the app.
    But according to “them” I’m everything that’s wrong

  • I think it is based on a false premise from the outset – you are never filming a crime, you are filming the aftermath, which in essence means filming a victim.

    Crimes can only be filmed “live” by the big brother cameras of state law enforcement and local businesses already in place, unless it is a crime of duration (i.e looting a store) which most violent crimes on civilians are not. If there is any benefit to these cameras, they can capture crime but can’t be broadcast immediately on social media which is the real premise behind this app – clicks, advertising revenue and publicity.

    I read recently of a women in Minnesota, murdered and beheaded on the street in broad daylight by someone known to her, but whom had been recently released with a violent record and a requested but denied mental health eval. A witness had the footage of her body up on social media before the police arrived, and before her next of kin had been notified.

    Never mind an app to facilitate this, I wonder if this should this even be legal?

  • In fact to add to my previous comment cash incentivizing filming crime and/or its aftermath is a dangerous practice and will make it even worse. Higher probability of worse outcome for the victim versus someone trying to help and at its very worst dehumanizing victims and sensationalizing perpetrators. A very good example of this is the Uber driver in Washington, D.C. who was carjacked and murdered by a 13 and 15 year old girl while nobody tried to help and numerous bystanders filmed the horrific event. And even without a specific cash incentive, the desire to capture the crime undoubtedly for selfish social media purposes completely destroyed any desire to render aid, or attempt to intervene.

    Then again at its very worst and most prolific this kind of behavior and event is probably the result of a psy-op decades on the making.

    • -Drakey,
      Good observation.
      What a world we live in.
      As we grind further the downward spiral, it will all be captured and on fantastic display on social media.

  • Mind you, the “Snitch Society” is already in place. And it´s bigger than what you could think.

    In Venezuela, the very same neighbors supporting the regime provided information so the colectivos gang could make their razzias and take to jail, or even kill, those young men and women fighting the uniforms. Them thugs would hunt them INSIDE their own homes, stomping on our Constitution.

    This has happened in Cuba for decades, that´s one of the reasons that sort of infamous regimes can stand for a while: they starve people, and give a bag of food to the snitches who treason and give them information about dissidents.
    And yet, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court doesn´t do a thing about this. Useless bureaucrats. They should be dissolved.

    • Hi Jose, “Mind you, the “Snitch Society” is already in place. And it´s bigger than what you could think.”

      You are dead right. Here in Australia, all my life, it has been the norm to not dob (snitch) on a mate, a neighbour, or people in general. A couple of weeks ago a “Freedom” rally was held in Sydney attended by 3,500 people. At the request of the police commissioner to have the attendees identified, so they could be fined or arrested, more than 20,000 calls were received by crime stoppers. Unbelievable !! The police don’t have to work hard when the populace is more than willing to do the job for them. The snitching will be very dangerous here when the real SHTF comes, as you have described.

  • As a first responder, we already have to deal with ‘looky loos’ as we sometimes call them, as well as overly concerned neighbors, friends, family and also troublemakers on scenes. They’re distracting, cause trouble in many ways, and are stress inducing to responders. This is just going to make that worse. There are a lot of people who are self-proclaimed medical professionals, storm chasers, and vigilantes who are just dying for an app like this so they can go show the world how amazing they are. They will want to “help” and likely are NOT qualified and will just get in the way of trained professionals. They could even HURT someone or worse. This is a HORRIBLE idea all around. Traffic at emergency scenes can also be a nightmare with emergency responders coming in from all directions. Now add in these folks, and we’re going to end up with accidents and collision with emergency vehicles. I cannot express how bad of an idea I think this is. now add in the criminal component, or what if a scene becomes a crime scene (death in a car crash for example) and now you have folks trampling evidence, it could cause serious issues for not just responders but the people for whom we’re trying to help solve the crime.

    • This is what I was thinking too – they will be getting in the way of first responders and causing delays.

  • This is why I gave up my smart phone. Don’t want any stickin’ phone telling everyone where I am, what I’m saying or whom I’m with. This was the intent all along. Whether you believe there is a cabal or not is irrelevant. The smart phone aways was a tool to recruit snitches.a

    • eileen: do you have any cell phone? How about one of those old flip phones? If the answer is “Yes”, then there’s a way for people to find out where you are. The only way to keep people from knowing where you are is not to have a cell phone at all.

      Cell phone companies monitor where phones are by triangulation. They need to do that in order for the cell phones to work. I was once asked to monitor where a person was, asked by the person himself so there was no privacy violation. Sometimes the triangulation was quite good, even pinpointing in which building was the person. Other times it could be up to a half mile off. He was using a flip phone, not a smart phone.

      If you don’t want to be tracked at all, don’t use a cell phone.

      If you have a smart phone, turn off location services, GPS and WIFI when away from your home. I once was looking for an address, using an iPod Touch (the smart without the phone nor GPS). I had downloaded a map of my destination. When I was close to my destination, I opened the map on my iPod Touch and was shocked to see that it had pinpointed my location—it had triangulated between the WIFI signals in the neighborhood. Once you have turned off location services, GPS and WIFI, then the cell phone company’s triangulation is no more accurate than with a dumb cell phone.

  • If there is any sort of emergency, people need help, not recording. Recording an incident can be a good idea sometimes, I’m not denying that. But actual physical help should be the priority. People seem to have become obsessed with watching and recording stuff, instead of doing stuff.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying either that going to a crime scene with a gun and doing something with said gun is a good idea, either. Selco has said many times what a terrible idea that can be.

    What I’m saying is that if you have first aid training, and you are aware of a situation where it may be helpful, that would make a lot more sense than recording anything. Only if the person is already receiving the best medical aid available at the time and there is nothing else you can do, recording is something you may consider doing.

  • NONE OF THIS MATTERS,america has DECLARED OUR LORD JESUS AND OUR FATHER GOD TO BE THE ENEMIES OF AMERICA,if you have NO IDEA who these guys are that you have declared to be your enemy,YOU’LL LEARN IT VERY SOON,THEY are famous for destorying THEIR ENEMIES,thats you now america,OUR FATHER COMMANDED THE MEN TO STAND UP AND TAKE THESE DEVILS DOWN,but you refused ,YOU SAID WE WILL NOT HARKEN TO THE LORDS COMMANDS,AND DECLARED THEM TO BE YOUR HERO’S, WHO YOU LOVE,just a simple warning THEY PROTECT THEIR BOSSES<AND SERVE THEIR DADDY SATAN..but you'll learn it the had way shortly,as the invading armies destroy you and them,IN A WAR you have removed any chance of winning…

  • The liberty-hating warmongering fascist psychopaths who rule our world plan to enact more lockdowns and mandates like crazy – and they plan to have people snitch on those not following their rules. Watch, it will happen if you for some reason don’t believe it.

  • Frightening overstepping of personal privacy and security… That is the only good thing I have to say about this. No smart home, video doorbells, google or alexia home spying devices needed thanks I opt out, assuming that is even possible anymore. More and more I want to move to a cabin out in the woods(not that I really want to but sigh this is not good I am a social person).

    • Video doorbells are great for personal privacy and security—only if the signal is restricted to within your own house. That means no Ring or other commercial video doorbell that provides a feed to the police and/or public. Unfortunately, the only non-commercial video door bell of which I know is a DIY project.

      I too will have nothing to do with the “internet of things” smart home, or other home spying devices, I turned off the electronic assistants for my computers and phones, such as siri on Apple devices because they can spy.

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