Digital Defense: Putting personal safety apps to the test

Digital Defense: Putting personal safety apps to the test
It's a scary time to be going anywhere alone. Women are beginning to arm themselves and learn self-defense, and personal safety apps put another layer of protection in the palm of your hand. Source: WLBT
It's a scary time to be going anywhere alone. Women are beginning to arm themselves and learn self-defense, and personal safety apps put another layer of protection in the palm of your hand. Source: WLBT
The apps we tested are all free, and they're all designed to protect you when you need help, without opening a contact list. Source: WLBT
The apps we tested are all free, and they're all designed to protect you when you need help, without opening a contact list. Source: WLBT
Which free apps work, and which don't? Source: WLBT
Which free apps work, and which don't? Source: WLBT
Stingley recommends that app users choose their contacts wisely. Source: WLBT
Stingley recommends that app users choose their contacts wisely. Source: WLBT

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - We're hearing about violent crimes on our Mississippi streets just about every day and night.

It's a scary time to be going anywhere alone. Women are beginning to arm themselves and learn self-defense, and personal safety apps put another layer of protection in the palm of your hand.

Which free apps work, and which don't?

The apps we tested are all free, and they're all designed to protect you when you need help, without opening a contact list.

Fitness Instructor Colleen Hollimon of Madison is trying them out with us. She often has to walk to and from her car alone.

"I park behind the buildings or in my driveway early in the morning, or sometimes later at night," she tells us.

StaySafeT is an app that quickly calls one pre-assigned person in your contact list, or texts three people a message and a map where you're located.

"It says I'm in danger, and it sends a map," Hollimon explains.

Colleen added me as a contact, and we tried it out.

The "help, I'm in danger" text came through in less than a second, but unfortunately, the location map did not appear as a link, just as a blank set of coordinate numbers.

We both tried changing our location settings.

"It's still showing zeroes," Colleen told us.

The call feature did work, at the press of the call button.

Next, we tried Circle of 6, which won a White House Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge Award. It allows a user to add six friends as emergency contacts. It only sends texts, but gives the user three options. The user can text for the recipient to come and get them, or to call them, or can send a text that reads, "call me and pretend you need me", which could get someone out of an uncomfortable situation.

Colleen tried it out by sending the "call me and pretend you need me" text to her mother, and she quickly got a call back.

Our attempts at sending the text with map coordinates, again, just came through as a set of zeroes with no link to a map.

The final app we tested is called Parachute. Both the user and recipient have to download the app, and the user can send the recipient a live video.

Does it work? Again, Colleen used me as her recipient.

"You have to hold it down for a second, then you've got a recording going on. You hit the "eye" icon, and I'm just recording everything around me," Hollimon explains.

The app texted me a link, which opened to a live video of Hollimon's driveway, where we were standing.

The app sends a user's location through live video. "You would get their location, and they would be able to see what was actually happening," Hollimon tells us.

Which personal safety app did Colleen like best?

"I like the SafeT, just because it's literally one click. SafeT was was definitely the easiest to use," she says.

We also talked to a law enforcement officer about the apps. Marcia Stingley is an Investigator with the Rankin County Sheriff's Office.

"Those are really good for a woman to use if she's alone," Stingley says.

When we tried the StaySafeT app together, we also had the problem of the map not coming through, although when Stingley sent it from her work phone to her personal phone, the map appeared. The other apps also worked well.

Stingley recommends that app users choose their contacts wisely.

"Make sure your emergency contacts know that you're using them as an emergency contact. To take it seriously," she says.

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