I’m Getting Kidnapped App

Approx read: 2 mins

Jason Van Anden has neat ideas.

During Occupy Wall Street, the Brooklyn-based artist came up with the ‘I’m Getting Arrested’ phone app. Now in 14 languages, and free to the 99%, the app has helped peaceful protesters alert their friends that all in not cool.

In a response to New York City’s legally abused ‘Stop and Frisk’ laws, Van Anden coordinated with the New York Civil Liberties Union to create a ‘Stop and Frisk Watch’ app that allows Android users to record and report civil rights abuses directly to the NYCLU.

Just before the 2014’s World Cup in Brazil, Van Anden came up with the ‘I’m Getting Kidnapped’ app. The artist designed the non-commercial free alert system with the help of a Brazilian friend, who translated the Spanish and Portuguese versions.

The app works as a combined canned message relay and homing beacon. In a very unscientific test around our lab otherwise known as the water cooler, activating the alert took less than 3 seconds. Turn on phone, hit app button, press alarm.

After pressing the target for a second or so, the bullseye disappears and the screen goes blank. In the dark, the app is sending text messages with Google pin codes to your preset contacts. The system will continue to resend your SMS and location every 15 minutes until you turn off your phone, you run out of juice or, if you’ve forgotten to do those things after testing the system, your friend throws your phone into the river.

Here’s how it works: download the app. Once you’ve downloaded that sucker, go to the Location Services menu and make sure you’re connected. If you connect frequently on Facebook, don’t worry, you’re connected. Make sure your device lock is on. Enter your contacts and type in your message.


Call your peeps and let them know you are about to send them a message saying that you’ve been kidnapped. Tell them that this is a test. Test the app. Do it a bunch. Though the app is simple to use, a kidnapping isn’t exactly the best time to wing it.

A great thing about this app is that the people out there trying to help you don’t have to enrol, subscribe or participate to be on the list. Since the app was created by an artist and not some corporate schmuck, downloaders and friends don’t have to worry about their info being sold. (Hey, that’s Facebook’s job!) Grumpy foil-hatted holdouts for privacy’s last shred don’t need to have GPS engaged or location services on to receive updated coordinates.

Here’s the kryptonite: location services are power hungry. Geolocating 96 times a day takes some juice so don’t plan on your homing messages to last more than a day or two. Sorry, iUsers, because of the way SMS works in Macworld, you won’t see this app any time soon.

‘I’m Getting Kidnapped’ doesn’t (and shouldn’t) replace common sense. For some good advice on avoiding getting kidnapped, click here. Know that the top countries where kidnappings occur are Mexico, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela. Going to one of these places and think you might be targeted? Consider kidnap travel insurance. Ditto the Asian-Pacific: 35% of global kidnapping occurs here. Whatever your strategy, know that an ounce of prevention can save thousands of pounds in ransom.

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.