Samaritans will delete 'depression alert' Radar app data

The suicide prevention charity announced last week that it had suspended the app after complaints from data protection campaigners

Samaritans Radar app
Samaritans Radar app

Samaritans will announce today that any data associated with its recently suspended Samaritans Radar app will be deleted, after data protection campaigners argued that it was wrong for the suicide prevention charity to hold sensitive data about thousands of people’s mental health.

The charity will also say today that it will be holding a series of consultation events about the app, according to Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research and development at Samaritans.

The charity said last Friday that it had suspended the app – which was launched on 29 October and was designed to tell Twitter users which of the people they followed might be feeling low – after a petition claiming it breached the Data Protection Act attracted more than 1,200 signatures.

Other complaints had included people not liking the idea of having their tweets monitored and a worry that the app could be abused by internet trolls.

The consultation events will be in addition to an online survey, which was launched on the day the app was withdrawn and asks people questions to determine how they feel about the app monitoring their tweets, whether they believe the risk of people using the app for harm outweighs the benefits and whether they agree with the ethics of the app.

"As a society, we need to address the opportunities and challenges the online environment presents for supporting people and the role this work could play in ultimately reducing suicide," said Ferns. "We’ve learned that we must consult even more widely than we have done in the development of Samaritans Radar, and we will continue to respect and better understand the diversity of existing communities and users."

He added that the charity would respond to any requests people had in relation to data held by the app.

He told Third Sector the charity was "genuinely surprised" by the controversy the app had caused.

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