Trying out Samaritans Radar

I’ve (temporarily) signed up for the Samaritans Radar app. I thought this would be a smartphone app, but it’s not. It’s a little twitter app that reads posts looking for keywords and sends an email if it sees anything it thinks might be alarming.
I’ve got two notifications so far. The first one comes from a tweet from before I added the app:

Oh, irony is not dead.
The other notification was for this tweet:

It sent me an email about 20 minutes after that was first posted, which is a bit late for a ‘I’m going to kill myself … right now’, but possibly ok for people building up more slowly. (A later notification for a different tweet arrived after only 7 minutes.) Gmail autofiltered the email to my Updates tab, which means it did not generate an alert on my phone. All of the updates I got have been in a single thread, so I could move it to the primary inbox if I were concerned.
The email told me:

Dear @celesteh,

Radar has spotted a tweet from someone you follow who may be going through a tough time.

Read the tweet here and find out how you can offer support.

View Tweet Now

If you need more information on how to help your friend or if you need some support yourself, please visit

Clicking through on the ‘View tweet now’ takes me to a web page.

My Radar

Hi @celesteh
This is the tweet that Radar has spotted

Are you worried about this Tweet?
[yes] [no]

Clicking yes gets a small pop up window overlaying the tweet in question:

What to do:

You’ve indicated that the tweet might be worrying. Here are some tips on what to do next:

  • Have a look at their tweets, is this a one off? Out of character? Has it been going on for long?
  • Try sending them a tweet (or perhaps a DM, Email, Text?) gently asking how they’re doing.
  • Could a mutual friend have the same worries and help approach them together?

You might want to try and meet up with your friend, or arrange a time to chat on the phone?

  • Offer Samaritans contact details and suggest they call if they want to speak to someone anonymously : 08457 90 90 90
  • For more information and help with knowing what to say visit

And that’s it. None of the pages had any queries or information relating to the nature of different relationships I might have with the potentially troubled tweeter. For example, if I got a tweet like that about an underling that I line-manage or have power over at work, that is not addressed. Nor is any mention made of the equalities act.
This tool does not give me access to any information I did not already have access to. It only shows me tweets already visible in my timeline. Therefore, concerns that it could out somebody as trans or LGB do seem misplaced, as it only shows me what people have already decided I should be able to see. I don’t know, but I suspect it will also work with protected tweets, so it will send me alerts about tweets that aren’t public, but, again, the person decided I could already see them. (This does raise larger concerns about how twitter apps run by big data companies are a way of circumventing privacy controls set by individual users.)
Again, this app draws my attention to tweets that would have been in my timeline anyway, but that I may have missed because of the massive volume of tweets that go by, or I may have scrolled past it without noticing. I can see why the Samaritans were surprised by people getting upset about privacy concerns, as this is much less invasive than is all of facebook or a lot of other twitter-based data gathering.

Previously on this topic: Posting to the Internet

Published by

Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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