Do you fancy owning a mobile phone which comes with a built-in feature that allows users to immediately delete all available data stored on it, all with the press on a single button? Well, the good news is that such a feature is currently in the works as a joint project by the US Department of State and "a group of unspecified technology providers". The bad news? You got to be in a real political pinch to be able to use it.
Picture this situation: you are an activist who happens to be involved in staging some rather spectacular political protests in order to bring about change to a certain regime. Unfortunately for you, the regime's secret police catches wind of your involvement, and sends down a task force with the objective to throw you behind bars and confiscate your mobile phone. Which, ever so conveniently, happens to have the contact details of countless other activists stored within.
Naturally, the most logical course of action would be to destroy most of the data stored in the mobile phone's memory to protect your fellow activists from coming to harm. However, manually going through SMSs and phone book contacts is definitely not the fastest way to get rid of incriminating data, especially if you are already fighting against time. The solution? Simple: a US Department of State-developed feature known as the Panic Button, which is designed to protect an activist's fellow companions in the event of a crackdown..
According to a report published by Reuters, the so-called Panic Button was designed primary for use by democratic activists who might be targeted by foreign law-enforcement officials over their involvement in various protests or demonstrations. When such demonstrations get broken up and the riot police goes into full gear attempting to arrest such troublemakers, the Panic Button, when activated, will not only wipe out your personal data such as contact details and messages, but also send out a message to like-minded activists over various social networks to let others know that someone has gotten into serious trouble with the long arm of the law, and that they face the possibility of being targeted.
Of course, the feature is still currently under development, but its potential cannot be denied. After all, there is nothing more selfless than offering oneself up to law-enforcement agents as a scapegoat while protecting the larger community by ensuring that they remain un-harassed to campaign for another day. At the same time, there is also a very high possibility of the feature being misused for other not-so-noble purposes, such as terrorists using it to mask their tracks. But we shall see, no?