Citizen App Lays Off 33 Employees Amidst Crime-Reporting Struggles

Citizen announced Wednesday the layoffs of 33 staff members, confirming to TechGround.

We thank our departing team members for their contributions to Citizen and are committed to supporting them during this transition with a generous severance package, including accelerated option vesting, extended exercise window, six months of COBRA payments, career services support and other benefits – as informed by a spokesperson from TechGround.

Citizen didn’t disclose which departments were affected; an employee said 10+ engineers were laid off.

Launched in 2016, the app then known as Vigilante was initially banned from the App Store due to concerns about vigilantism. Now, Citizen notifies users of verified incidents in their area using public police blotters and allows them to upload reports of suspicious activity and livestream from crime scenes.

Since its launch, mobile app Citizen has seen impressive results: over 14 million downloads and $30.3 million in consumer spending. This success was further bolstered by a 2021 Series C funding round that raised a total of $73 million, including a $23 million convertible note.

Citizen has faced criticism for creating a culture of surveillance that often leads to racial profiling and harassment, similar to Nextdoor. But the most extreme example of these dangers came from Citizen’s CEO himself: in 2021, Andrew Frame offered Citizen users $30K reward for tracking down an alleged arsonist while livestreaming on the app. The suspect’s photo was viewed over 800K times; however, Frame had wrongly identified him as the culprit – seeing it as an elaborate marketing opportunity instead. According to Motherboard, this incident illustrated how dangerous such surveillance can be if misused or abused.

We regret our mistake and are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” the company stated.

Citizen’s Protect service, for $20/month, offers 24/7 access to a ‘protect agent’ who can connect users with first responders or police. But some question if the alerts it sends stoke panic and fear more than provide security – potentially driving people to buy their own personal security agents.

Citizen saw a 17% rise in in-app purchases year over year after the introduction of Protect, with SensorTower data showing average monthly spending of $1.4 million in 2022 – not enough to make the company profitable. To stretch their resources further, Citizen laid off 33 employees but is still recruiting for five new roles according to its website.

Citizen employees, current or former, can contact Amanda Silberling via Signal (secure encrypted messaging app) at 929 593 0227 or Twitter DM @asilbwrites.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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