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Informant tech?

TECHNOLOGY | App allows students and teachers to report suspicious behavior to the government


Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Informant tech?
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West Virginia’s Department of Homeland Security updated its guidelines for school safety Oct. 4 to include a crime-reporting app. The app, See Send, is supposed to help prevent crime, but could it erode privacy in the process?

Already in use in 10 states, See Send allows users to submit tips—in the form of notes, photos, and location information—to a state watch center. The center then processes and forwards tips to law enforcement and school officials. App users can submit tips anonymously under one of three categories: “Crime/Suspicious Activity,” “School Threat or Safety Issues,” or “Suicide or Addiction.”

The state DHS guidelines say the app can help prevent crimes if concerned citizens use it alongside a profile of common patterns and behaviors (e.g., psychological problems, home life trauma) among past school shooters, identified through a Secret Service study.

The guidelines encourage teachers or friends who witness troubling behavior to report it via See Send, triggering a school or state investigation into the student’s life—including home environment, social media use, friend group, and even medical history.


Photo illustration by Rachel Beatty

Bug busting app

Crop pests cost farmers billions of dollars each year. Now researchers at Iowa State University have designed an app to help minimize the loss. Using a smartphone camera, growers can take a picture of a bug, and the app will identify it as either invasive or beneficial to the crop. If invasive, the app offers eradication tips. The app currently can detect 2,000 pest species, and the designers plan to expand it to 4,000 by next year. —Bekah McCallum


Droids that bring dinner

Want your tacos ­delivered by robot? Residents of Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, Pittsburgh, and now Chicago can have just that. On Sept. 21, the Chicago City Council approved a program that allows “Personal Delivery Device” companies to apply for two-year permits and make local deliveries within a set area.

Last year, the University of Illinois began providing Starship delivery robots as a campus dining feature and later sought approval to expand the concept to other consumers in the Windy City. Grocery ­vendors and restaurants across Chicago can partner with tech companies whose robots will travel along sidewalks and crosswalks, equipped with GPS trackers and “obstacle detection” capabilities. Although delivery robots are designed to deter theft and avoid collision, Chicago transportation officials will help to assess their reliability before granting permits. —B.M.


Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth is an editorial assistant at WORLD.

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