The U.K.’s Home Office, the government department responsible for monitoring immigration, national security issues, and law and order, has publicly endorsed a tracking app for women called Path Community. Now, according to the Guardian, the office is facing high levels of scrutiny and backlash.
It’s here! Please download, share and review @PathCommunity app which helps you get home safely and uses your feedback to create safer spaces for everyone-giving power back to the community! https://t.co/c6zZzEb9v0
— Nic Keaney (@NicKeaney) December 29, 2021
“We need a whole-of-society approach to tackling violence against women and girls, and I welcome initiatives from the private sector that deliver on this aim,” Home Office Minister Rachel Maclean said of her decision to support the app.
The app follows the routes of those traveling home late at night. If the traveler moves too far away from their route home, the app will send a notification to check on their safety. If they do not respond within a reasonable amount of time, the appointed “guardians” will receive a message on their phones. Upon which time, the guardian can also reach out to their loved one or contact police.
“The underlying issue of men’s violence is the core problem and everyone has to help tackle it,” its creator Harry Mead said. “The app is designed to help with immediate concerns and help users feel safer. Path is our attempt to do our bit.”
Some, however, have found issues with the app for its alleged promise of “women’s safety.” As people question the purpose of the project, they’re also concerned about future issues with the app.
“How did this app get past the proposal stage?! An app tracking women’s movements ‘for their safety’…what could go wrong,” one Twitter user wrote.
LBC radio host Shelagh Fogarty criticized the app, calling it a “failure” at protecting women and girls from violence. She also compared the design to that of a similar Saudi Arabian “Woman-Tracking” app offered through Google.
According to Time, the government-backed app allowed men to grant or stop women from traveling. It also allowed men to input women’s passport and ID numbers to monitor how many journeys they could take and how long they could be away for. The app was harshly condemned by critics for its pursuance to the country’s male guardianship law.