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New York is using an anti-terror app to keep its people safe

The world remains on high alert following devastating attacks in Mali, Paris, and Beirut, and as America’s busiest travel season draws nearer, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is introducing a new technological initiative he hopes will help keep his citizens safe. On Monday, Cuomo unveiled a new mobile app effort designed to bolster New York’s “ability to fight terrorism.” Called See Something, Send Something, the app encourages state residents to “report suspicious activity through a simple mobile app on their smartphone.”

According to the app’s description on the Apple App Store, See Something Send Something is “the pre-eminent nationwide suspicious activity reporting (SAR) tool for citizens to help in the fight against terrorism.” Not only does the app allow users to instantly send tips to law enforcement officials, but See Something, Send Something also attempts to educate its users on “what to look for and when to submit suspicious activity reports.”

“These new efforts are essential pieces in our fight against terrorism,” Cuomo said. “We have stepped up our preparedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and we continue to remain vigilant against those who seek to spread fear and violence. Despite the tremendous pain and loss that terrorist attacks around the world have caused the people of this state, the family of New York stands stronger than ever before.”

See Something, Send Something is already used in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Louisiana, Colorado, and Virginia, but with New York’s position as one of the most populous states in the country and its all-too-familiar personal history with terrorism, the app’s implementation in the Big Apple may be its biggest test yet.

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“It is important to remember that all New Yorkers have a role in keeping our state safe,” said state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner John Melville.

Of course, it’s also important to note that such apps are easily abused — particularly in times of extreme tension, users have been known to send in “tips” that are based more upon their own prejudices than legitimate concerns. “When you ask for anonymous tips, you very well could get false information or information the person believes is true, but turns out not to be correct,” Cuomo admitted. As such, significant vetting will be needed in order to ensure that the information being passed along holds water, and doesn’t simply flood the system with racist comments.

Still, says State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, this app allows for a more open line of communication. “If you see something that may be linked to terrorism, send something,” he urged. “Your tip could provide valuable information that could prevent a tragedy.”