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Crime-tracking app Citizen ‘is paying contract workers in Kenya to listen in on US police scanners’


Crime-tracking app Citizen is outsourcing much of their daily operations work to Kenya as staff in its New York office push to unionize, according to reports.

New York workers used to trawl US police scanners and emergency reports for information which could then be pushed to local app users.

But that responsibility will fall to about 200 contractors who are mostly based in Nairobi, Kenya starting Wednesday, an employee told the New York Post.

New York staff say they have also had benefits like free meals cut, and they are being discouraged from applying to other positions in the company.

The outsourcing is one of the main reasons Citizen’s 69-person ‘central operations department’ filed paperwork to hold a union election with the National Labor Relations Board last month. 

‘We’re actually at a really low point for quality,’ the employee said, calling the new contractors ‘very young and not as experienced.’

North Carolina-based CloudFactory, which bills itself as a company that makes it easier for other companies to ‘automate and outsource routine, but critically important data work’ is allegedly in charge of Citizen’s outsourcing.

CloudFactory did not respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com. 

A Citizen spokesperson told the Post that the company was working with CloudFactory, and insisted that the central operations workers had other opportunities at the company.

The Citizen app, which tracks crime in about 60 cities in real time, is pushing out its US workers and handing over responsibilities to overseas contractors, according to one employee

The 200 contractors, mostly based in Nairobi, Kenya, will be responsible for sifting through 911 calls and user reports starting Wednesday

The 200 contractors, mostly based in Nairobi, Kenya, will be responsible for sifting through 911 calls and user reports starting Wednesday

The employee also claims that Citizen management is pushing out workers who want to leave as quickly as possible.

‘People who are putting in their two weeks and want to finish up their two weeks are being told to leave immediately and being cut off from all their communications,’ the source said.

Meanwhile, the source says free meals have been taken away and paid time off restrictions have got tighter. Employees are also being discouraged from applying to other jobs within the company, the source said.

The Citizen app was originally called Vigilante and only covered New York City. It was released in 2016 before it was rebranded as Citizen the next year. The app was developed by sp0n, which was itself founded by programmer Andrew Frame.

Citizen has faced criticism for promoting vigilante justice. Above, founder Andrew Frame

Citizen has faced criticism for promoting vigilante justice. Above, founder Andrew Frame

The app is currently available in over 60 cities and serves more than 7 million users, according to its website.

The crime tracking tool has been criticized for promoting vigilante justice and for possibly heightening racial profiling, as users can report crime on the app themselves.

In May, the company pushed out an alert to Southern California residents promising $30,000 to anyone who could ‘hunt down’ a man accused of starting a wildfire. The man ended up being an innocent homeless man. 

The bounty was personally ordered by Frame, according to The Verge

‘We are actively working to improve our internal processes to ensure this does not occur again,’ the company said in a statement after the incident. ‘This was a mistake we are taking very seriously.’ 

That same month, the company confirmed that it’s testing out a private security force in Los Angeles after a mysterious Citizen-branded patrol vehicle was seen prowling the streets.

In July, the company confirmed to DailyMail.com that it was paying $25 an hour for people to pretend to be bystanders and film crime scenes. The footage often ends up in local news stations. 

A posting on the career site JournalismJobs.com, which was first reported by the New York Post, advertises for the roles ‘generating live content to give users real-time information on what’s going on in their city as it unfolds.’ 

Frame was reportedly behind a push alert sent to Southern California Citizen users promising a $30,000 bounty for an 'arsonist,' who turned out to be an innocent homeless man

Frame was reportedly behind a push alert sent to Southern California Citizen users promising a $30,000 bounty for an ‘arsonist,’ who turned out to be an innocent homeless man

But those users may soon be getting alerts based on incidents that are flagged up from workers in Africa who don’t get the same level of training or support as their American counterparts.

‘They’re listening to pretty horrific things over the radio and they’re not getting the same mental health care as our analysts,’ the source, who is not involved in the company’s recent unionization drive, told the New York Post.

Citizen employees are looking to unionize under the New York branch of the  Communications Workers of America. Company leadership has spoken out against the drive.

‘We are best positioned to address challenges and grow together as a Citizen team without meddling from an outside union,’ a spokesperson told DailyMail.com Tuesday, recycling a statement that was released last month. 

‘We support our mission-driven high-performance team with above market compensation, full benefits, stock options, and career opportunities for all employees, and will continue to take steps to improve on any support offerings that may be needed.’



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