The XX Factor

Crime-Fighting iPhone Apps Create a Culture of Fear

There’s a CNN article today about increasingly popular iPhone apps that track sex offenders and other convicts. The story starts off with Tracy Rodriguez, a mother in Houston, who uses her iPhone to get “information revealing the sex offenders who live within a 10-mile radius of where her children practice sports or watch movies.” Apparently this mom feels that the app makes her make more informed choices, and she checks it several times daily . I thought this was just a punch line in the movie Knocked Up , not an actual trend.

Does this strike anyone else as absurd? It’s good to be concerned about the health and well-being of your children, but restricting your movements, hour by hour, based on an exaggerated perceived threat, sounds like a personal prison. It also sounds like a terrible lesson for kids. These apps will teach them to be afraid all the time. What’s more, there are the privacy issues implicit in this sort of thing, since,as the article points out, the public records the app is based on could be out of date or incorrect. But Rodriquez is not alone in her fear, as the Offender Locator app has been downloaded more than a million times.