March 13, 2017
Smartphone App Helps Undocumented Immigrants With ICE Raids
The free app, called Cell 411 is a smartphone app available for Android and iOS; it allows users to organize themselves in regional "cells" or groups which are decentralized and managed by the users themselves. This allows users who are in distress to alert other members of their cells of the nature of their problem and the exact location where they need help. When sending out an alert, the user's GPS coordinates are broadcast to their trusted friends with turn by turn direction to their location. This allows in essence for the crowd-sourcing of emergencies without the involvement of police, which are often not trusted by communities of immigrants and minorities.
The startup, Cell 411 Inc. was founded by Virgil Vaduva, who is an immigrant himself, after being arrested during an anti-police brutality protest after which he had no means to alert his family and friends of what happened and his whereabouts. The app was built as a decentralized means of helping communities and neighborhoods organize themselves to offer each other mutual aid in case of emergencies without asking for assistance from government, police and other state agencies.
The app allows users to send emergency alerts about medical problems, police abuse, vehicle problems, crime, and other issues; the alerts are tagged with exact GPS coordinates and friends can get turn-by-turn directions to users' location, should they decide to come and offer help. Users can stream live video to their cells, and the video cannot be erased by a malicious user who may gain access to their smart phone. The video can also be streamed to YouTube and Facebook and is distributed instantly to all friends, making it virtually impossible to be destroyed or erased through censorship.
Last year the company introduced a bluetooth panic button, which can be worn on a wrist, key-chain or a belt clip and allows users to send our an emergency alert much faster, without having to unlock or touch their smart phone.
The free Cell 411 app can be downloaded from http://getcell411.com/download or from the Google or Apple app stores.